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, responded to criminal justice reform provisions included in the revised House version of The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes Act), which passed the House on Thursday.
This updated legislation of the Heroes Act reflects the Democrats' response to the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19 as negotiations continue between parties and the administration on the contents of a relief package. Among other provisions, the new Heroes Act includes COVID-19 relief funding for reentry providers and the federal Bureau of Prisons, streamlines compassionate release procedures during the pandemic, and opens the Paycheck Protection Program to entrepreneurs with a criminal record and their employees.
"Our divided political climate must not distract from the urgent needs facing prisons and jails across the nation, where over 1,054 people have already lost their lives to COVID-19," said Heather Rice-Minus, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Church Mobilization for Prison Fellowship. "It is our sincere hope that federal lawmakers will advance a bipartisan COVID-19 response that includes Pell restoration for incarcerated students, bipartisan federal sentencing relief, and support for state and local governments working to safely reduce their incarcerated populations."
- Data tracking from Prison Fellowship reports 144,478 total positive cases of COVID-19 and 18,894 total active cases of the virus in state and federal prisons as of September 10. High unemployment rates and reduced reentry services create additional challenges for those returning to communities in pursuit of a second chance.
- Prison Fellowship has endorsed bipartisan policies to protect and care for those impacted by crime and incarceration during this historic crisis. These include responsible sentencing relief for medically vulnerable federal prisoners (COVID-19 Safer Detention Act), emergency funding to support corrections and reentry services for state and local governments working to safely reduce their incarcerated population, and Pell Grant restoration to help incarcerated students contribute to our workforce and improve post-release outcomes.
- In July, Prison Fellowship and faith leaders offered a letter in support of the bipartisan COVID-19 Safer Detention Act from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), which would provide targeted, individualized sentencing reductions to medically vulnerable men and women in the federal prison system.
- Prior to the passage of the original version of the Heroes Act in May, 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 requests with faith and conservative partners for a correction to Paycheck Protection Program restrictions that put the economic well-being of second-chance entrepreneurs and their employees at risk. Following continued outreach from outside stakeholders and federal lawmakers, the Treasury and Small Business Administration went on to correct some, though not all, of these barriers.