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Chairman Nadler Statement on the Work of the Judiciary Committee on The Heroes Act

Washington, May 13, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement on the introduction of H.R. 6800, the Heroes Act, a comprehensive bill that responds to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic:

"As our nation continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has a duty to meet this unprecedented crisis with a comprehensive response. I am proud to once again join my Democratic colleagues in crafting legislation that keeps Americans healthy and sets our nation on the path to recovery. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked to include provisions that protect essential workers, mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, and safeguard our democracy with resources to protect our elections. I implore my colleagues across the aisle to join with us in ensuring Americans have the aid they need and deserve."

The Judiciary Committee worked with Democratic leadership, in addition to fellow Committee Chairs and Members of Congress, to include the following key provisions in the Heroes Act:

Criminal Justice Provisions

Emergency Community Supervision Act- During a declared national emergency relating to a communicable disease, mandates the release into community supervision of federal prisoners and pretrial detainees who are non-violent and, for instance, pregnant women, juveniles, older prisoners and detainees, and those with certain medical conditions.

Court Authority to Reduce Sentences and Temporary Release Authority- During the COVID-19 emergency, expands court authority to order compassionate release for federal prisoners and to reduce sentences, and removes administrative barriers that slow the ability of prisoners to seek compassionate release.

Increasing Availability of Home Detention for Elderly Offenders- Increases the availability of home detention for non-violent elderly prisoners by ensuring that participants in the elderly prisoner home confinement pilot program get credit for good conduct time earned and lowers the eligibility for participation during the COVID-19 emergency period.

Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act- Directs the Attorney General to put in place an electronic communication system to be used by persons in federal custody that ensures confidential communication between those in custody and their attorneys.

COVID-19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act- Provides $600 million in funding to address the COVID-19 crisis in state and local prisons and jails, including $500 million to states and local governments that operate correctional facilities to provide testing and treatment of COVID-19 for incarcerated individuals by creating two grant programs—one focused on the release of low-risk individuals who are currently incarcerated and another aimed at reducing COVID-19 exposure for those individuals who are arrested; $75 million in funding to a new grant program to encourage states and localities to adopt practices that promote juvenile safety and rehabilitation without unnecessarily exposing youth to incarceration during this crisis; and $25 million for a grant program for state and local governments that operate correctional facilities for rapid testing of inmates who are leaving correctional custody.

Moratorium on Fees and Fines. Authorizes the establishment of a grant program that distributes funds directly to state and local courts, with the condition that they impose a moratorium on the imposition and collection of court-imposed fees and fines during the COVID-19 crisis.

Information Collection by States and Units of Local Government. Authorizes the Attorney General to give grants to local law enforcement agencies to conduct law enforcement activities or crime reduction programs to prevent, address, or otherwise respond to hate crimes, particularly related to reporting hate crimes.

Immigration Provisions

Extension of Filing and Other Deadlines. Creates protections for certain noncitizens in the United States, as well as certain immigrant visa applicants, affected by processing delays and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Temporary Accommodations for Naturalization Oath Ceremonies Due to Public Health Emergency. Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for remotely administering naturalization oath ceremonies during the COVID-19 emergency. Individuals who have been approved for naturalization may opt to participate in a remote swearing-in ceremony given the current suspension of in-person public ceremonies.

Temporary Protections for Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers. Provides temporary protections to undocumented workers in the United States engaged in essential critical infrastructure work, as defined by DHS-issued guidance, during the COVID-19 emergency.

Supplementing the COVID response workforce.Temporarily eases certain immigration-related restrictions to allow immigrant physicians and other critical healthcare workers to better assist in the fight against COVID-19.

ICE Detention. Requires DHS to review the immigration files of all individuals in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to assess the need for continued detention. Individuals who are not subject to mandatory detention shall be prioritized for release, either on recognizance or into an alternative to detention program, unless the individual is a threat to public safety or national security. DHS shall also ensure that all individuals who continue to be detained by ICE:

  • Have access to free telephonic and video communications, including unmonitored telephone calls with attorneys.
  • May receive legal correspondence by fax or email.
  • Are provided sufficient soap, hand sanitizer and other hygiene products.
  • Have access to virtual “know your rights” and legal orientation programming conducted by approved nonprofit organizations.

Benefits for Public Safety Officers Impacted by COVID-19

Death and Disability Benefits for Public Safety Officers Impacted by COVID-19- Amends the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to establish a presumption that officers who die or are disabled because of COVID-19 infection are eligible to receive disability and death benefits. Ensures that officers who were injured or disabled during or because of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and whose injuries in combination with a COVID-19 illness result in disability or death, may apply for PSOB disability or death benefits.

Bankruptcy Protections for Homeowners

Ensures that families who need to file for bankruptcy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to keep their homes. Protects federal relief payments from being taken in bankruptcy proceedings; ensuring that homeowners in bankruptcy proceedings can participate in the mortgage forbearance program created by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 mortgage assistance; increases the amount of home equity protected in the bankruptcy process to $100,000; makes it easier for homeowners to exit bankruptcy so they can resume normal economic activity and continue paying off their mortgages; and opens Chapter 13 to more homeowners and small businesses by raising the limits for debt to qualify for a bankruptcy through Chapter 13.

Hate Crimes

The “Jabara-Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2019, or “Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act” provides grant funding incentives to state and local law enforcement agencies for the collection of hate crimes data and reporting it to the Department of Justice, which would report the data to Congress.

Expands Funding for Department of Justice and Related Programs

Bureau of Prisons– $200 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus in Federal prisons, including funding for medical testing and services, personal protective equipment, hygiene supplies and services, and sanitation services

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs– $100 million, with a waiver of the local match requirement, including $30 million for grants to combat violence against women, $15 million for transitional housing assistance grants, $15 million for sexual assault victims assistance, $10 million for rural domestic violence and child abuse enforcement assistance, $10 million for legal assistance for victims, $4 million for assistance to tribal governments, and $16 million to support families in the justice system.

Byrne Justice Assistance Grants– $300 million to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including for purchasing personal protective equipment and controlling outbreaks of coronavirus at prisons, with waivers of the local match and non-supplanting requirements. Public defender funding is also an authorized use of Byrne-JAG grants. The bill additionally prevents the Department of Justice from preventing these funds from going to sanctuary jurisdictions.

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)– $300 million for law enforcement hiring grants and for the purchase of personal protective equipment, with waivers of the local match and non-supplanting requirements.

Second Chance Act grants– $250 million for grants to help facilitate the reintegration of ex-prisoners back into society and to prevent recidivism.

Pandemic Justice Response Act Grants– $600 million, including: (1) $500 million to prevent, detect, and stop the presence of COVID-19 in correctional institutions, and for pre-trial citation and release grants, (2) $25 million for Rapid COVID-19 Testing at correctional institutions, and (3) $75 million for Juvenile Specific Services.

Legal Services Corporation– $50 million to address legal needs arising from coronavirus.

Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General– $3 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including by providing auditing and oversight of supplemental funds provided to the Justice Department.

The text of The Heroes Act, H.R. 6800, is here. A one pager on the legislation is here. A section-by-section summary is here.

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