Chairman Scott Remarks at Press Event Marking Two Months Since House Passage of The Heroes Act

WASHINGTON – Joined by Speaker Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) delivered the following remarks during a press event highlighting the urgent need for the Senate to pass the Heroes Act, a COVID-19 pandemic emergency relief package passed by the House on May 15.  

“Thank you, Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Neal, for your leadership in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let us be clear.  All of us want to reopen schools for full-time, in-person instruction.  We know that in-person instruction is the best way to achieve academic success.  It’s also important for learning social skills, obtaining nutrition from school meals, and detecting possible child abuse.

“But we must also recognize that the health and safety of students, educators, and their families are our highest priorities.

 “Sixty days ago, House Democrats developed a plan to help schools reopen safely.

“That plan – the Heroes Act – includes emergency funding that is necessary to maintain students’ access to education; a comprehensive testing strategy to ensure that we can identify, isolate, and treat anyone infected with COVID-19; and, enforceable workplace safety standards to protect educators and other school staff.  Of course, when you protect the workers, you also have to protect the students.

“Instead of working with House Democrats on this legislation, Senate Leader McConnell dismissed the bill and failed to offer an alternative option to safely reopen schools and the economy. 

“Worse, he dismissed the very real threats presented by the unprecedented budget shortfalls facing state and local governments that could force devastating cuts to public education.

“Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s failed response to the pandemic has needlessly led to spikes in new COVID-19 cases in communities across the country.  Yesterday, five states set records for daily new cases of COVID-19.

“As we have seen over the past week, the Department of Education has no plan to bring students back into the classroom safely, particularly in communities where daily new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. It’s strategy thus far has consisted of tweeting, threatening to cut off funds for school districts, and telling school officials to figure it out on their own.

“Students, parents, and educators deserve better.  

“The Heroes Act reflects our commitment to not just hoping schools can reopen safely but taking action to safely bring students back into the classroom.  

“Before the pandemic, teachers were spending an average of nearly $500 of their own money every year to buy supplies for their classrooms. It should come as no surprise that many school districts cannot afford to provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, soap and hand sanitizer, cleaning and sanitizing services, and many other critical safety measures that are recommended by the CDC.

“In fact, according to the Superintendents Association, the average school district will need an additional $1.8 million to safely reopen.

“But, instead of helping schools comply with CDC guidelines, this administration’s solution is to try to water down the guidelines. 

“Our solution, the Heroes Act, gives schools the tools they need to protect students and staff. The package includes $100 billion for education with nearly $58 billion of that dedicated for K-12 schools.

 “It includes $1 trillion to help state and local governments address looming budget shortfalls and avert potentially devastating cuts to public education.  If this funding is not available, any federal appropriation for education will only partially offset the cuts at the state and local level and the additional cost to reopen safely will not be addressed.

 “In addition, this package also dedicates $75 billion to strengthen our testing and contact tracing efforts.  As other countries have demonstrated, investments in testing are critical to stopping the spread of the virus, reopening schools, and restarting our economy. 

“The Heroes Act also directs OSHA to issue an enforceable Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from airborne infectious diseases.  That would help protect America’s workers, including teachers and school staff, by replacing unenforceable, voluntary guidance with mandatory, enforceable standards.  Everybody knows you can’t protect workers without first protecting the students.

“In education, the Heroes Act not only pays extra for heroes’ work, but also protects workers from being infected in the first place.

“The CDC has made it clear that reopening schools for full-time, in-person instruction carries the highest risk of producing a spike in COVID-19 infections.  Over the past month, we have seen such spikes play out in communities across the country.

 “For example, a summer camp in Missouri was recently forced to close after 82 children and staffers contracted COVID-19.  Last month, three Arizona summer schoolteachers who shared a classroom all contracted COVID-19.  Tragically, one of the teachers died. Rather than downplaying the risks of reopening schools, we should be doing everything we can to ensure they can reopen safely. 

“Over the last two months, Senate Republicans and the administration have wasted valuable time by refusing to consider the Heroes Act.  Students, parents, and educators are now facing the consequences of this lack of planning. 

“For example, the CDC cites proper ventilation as an essential element of safety.  We know that almost of school districts in the country need significant improvements in their ventilation system to comply with the CDC guidelines.

“These improvements take planning, time, and resources.  Those resources can be found in the Heroes Act and the Moving Forward Act, the recent infrastructure bill that provides funding for reopening and rebuilding America’s schools.  That’s about $130 billion for school infrastructure.

 “Opening schools should not be a partisan or political situation.  This is about the health of our students, teachers, and other staff who dedicate their lives to helping young people reach their potential. 

“As the saying goes, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The Heroes Act is now a two-month old plan that is awaiting action from the Senate and this administration.

“Let’s not fail America’s schools, educators, and communities with illegal threats to withhold funds.  Instead, let us rise to the challenge and provide school districts with the funding they need to provide a quality education while also protecting the health and safety of our students, educators, parents, and communities.

“We can do that by enacting the Heroes Act.”


Press Contact

Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853