HEROES Act Includes Additional Funding for Reentry, COVID-19 Response, and Allows Entrepreneurs with a Criminal Past Access to the Paycheck Protection Program
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Prison Fellowship®, the nation's largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, applauded the criminal justice reform provisions included in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives—passed on Friday.
The $3 trillion legislative package reflects the House Democratic majority’s priorities for Congress's "Phase Four" response to the coronavirus and its mounting economic and public health costs. Prison Fellowship released the following statement on the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) provisions impacting the justice system:
"As the positive COVID-19 cases in prisons nationwide now surpasses 25,000 and the death toll climbs, we are grateful to see lawmakers including this vulnerable population in the House legislative agenda," said James Ackerman, President and CEO of Prison Fellowship. "In addition to our advocacy work, Prison Fellowship is actively supporting our corrections partners, including launching Floodlight™, a platform providing positive digital content for those who remain incarcerated during these incredibly challenging times. Currently, there are 37 states using Floodlight."
"Historically, criminal justice reform has required bipartisan support to get it to get to the finish line," said Heather Rice-Minus, vice president of Government Affairs and Church Mobilization for Prison Fellowship. "We're pleased many of Prison Fellowship's key priorities have been included in the HEROES Act, from allowing second chance business owners access to the Paycheck Protection Program to increasing reentry funding. However, we are working hard to forge a bipartisan path that will ensure the final bill delivered to the President's desk remembers those in prison."
KEY PRIORITIES ADDRESSED BY PRISON FELLOWSHIP INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS:
- Expands funding for the COVID-19 response strategies of the Bureau of Prisons as well as state and local justice systems. Prison Fellowship would like to ensure a portion of this is dedicated to funding tablets for use by people incarcerated in federal prisons. Tablets, which are already available in over 20 state prison systems, can make educational and rehabilitative content available for digital programming that can be completed while safely social distancing.
- HEROES Act includes $250 million for reentry programs and services through the Second Chance Act grant program, which first passed Congress in 2008 with strong bipartisan support.
- Removes a Paycheck Protection Program sanction denying critical emergency loans to entrepreneurs with a criminal record and their employees.
- Streamlines procedures during COVID-19 pandemic for federal compassionate release, which allows medically vulnerable people in federal prisons to request sentencing changes from federal courts.
- Prior to the passage of the HEROES Act, Prison Fellowship and our faith partners shared with House offices our justice policy recommendations for future legislative actions on COVID-19.
- In late April, the ministry made a request to faith and conservative partners a correction to Paycheck Protection Program restrictions that put the economic well-being of second-chance entrepreneurs and their employees at risk.
- On Mother’s Day, Prison Fellowship partnered with Grammy winning artist Lecrae to raise awareness about the tragic death of Andrea High Bear, the first woman in the Bureau of Prisons to die because of COVID-19, and to urge expanded use of compassionate release so similar cases never happen again. She gave birth to her daughter while on a ventilator prior to her death.