May 15, 2020

Chair DeFazio Applauds Inclusion of T&I Provisions to Expand Protections for Frontline Workers and Families in Fourth Coronavirus Relief Package

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “The Heroes Act,” comprehensive legislation to provide relief to workers and families during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This legislation, led by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, is the fourth in a series of relief packages related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes multiple provisions offered by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, including:


  • Provisions to strengthen working and travel conditions for those in the transportation sector, including requirements on masks/face coverings for workers and passengers on commercial U.S. flights, Amtrak trains, and certain public transit.  
  • A provision to adjust the cost share for assistance provided under any Stafford Act declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic to 100 percent Federal.
  • Provisions to provide financial assistance to low-income and other adversely affected consumers to assist with payments for drinking water and wastewater expenses. 


“The Heroes Act” also includes $75 million for FAA operations, including a study on mitigating pathogens in airplane cabin air; $15.75 billion for public transit agencies; and $15 billion to help State and local transportation agencies. Both public transit agencies and State departments of transportation are experiencing devastating drops in revenue amid the pandemic.

“As this unprecedented health and economic crisis continues to wreak havoc on workers, families, and communities across our country, Congress must continue to step up with big, bold measures to blunt the worst of its effects. As Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’m especially focused on making sure the Federal government helps protect frontline transportation workers and those who still must travel with clear and consistent policies on personal protective equipment that will help stop the spread of this insidious virus,” Chair DeFazio said. “Additionally, this legislation makes sure families financially impacted by COVID-19 will not have to forgo access to running water because they cannot pay their utility bills, and it increases the federal cost share for emergency declarations under FEMA to 100 percent federal so state and local governments aren’t saddled with extra bills coming due as their own budgets get hammered by this crisis. These are just a few of the many steps we must take to keep our country afloat during this crisis, and I will continue working to make sure we can prepare for and mitigate against what is to come.”

Among the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee-related provisions in The Heroes Act:

Protections for Aviation workforce: Mandates that airlines, during the COVID-19 pandemic, provide airline employees with personal protective equipment and require flight crew and passengers to wear face coverings while aboard the aircraft. Additionally, ensures aircraft and enclosed facilities are cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized frequently in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.  

Mandates that the Federal Aviation Administration, during the COVID-19 pandemic, provide air traffic controllers and airway transportation systems specialists with personal protective equipment and ensure air traffic control facilities are cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized frequently in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.  

Relief for Aviation workforce: $75 million for additional janitorial services at air traffic control towers and other FAA facilities; hazard pay, and overtime pay to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus; and a study on mitigating pathogens in airplane cabin air.

Extends the prohibition on involuntary furloughs of employees of airlines or contractors that receive financial assistance (i.e., payroll grant) under the CARES Act through full exhaustion of such assistance.

Improves transparency of the Treasury Department’s issuance of payroll grants to airlines and contractors under the CARES Act by requiring the Department to publish descriptions of each issued grant, including the grant recipient and amount, on the Department’s public website within 72 hours of issuance. The Department will also be required to submit this information to Congress.

Expands prevention and preparedness: Requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks.

Relief for transit workers: $15.75 billion for operating assistance grants to support transit agencies that require significant additional assistance to maintain basic transit services.

For large transit agencies, require public transit passengers to wear masks or other face coverings, provide all customer-facing employees with personal protective equipment, ensure public transit vehicles and transit stations/facilities are sanitized frequently in accordance with CDC guidance.

Relief for local governments: $15 billion for grants to support the ongoing work of State, Tribal, and Territorial Departments of Transportation and certain local governments to mitigate the effects of coronavirus.

Expands protections for Amtrak workers and travelers: Requires protective face masks be worn by Amtrak employees and passengers aboard all Amtrak trains. Amtrak must also provide masks or protective face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes to all employees whose job responsibilities include passenger interaction. It also ensures that Amtrak trains, stations, and enclosed facilities are frequently cleaned and disinfected, and that employees who do this work are provided masks or protective face coverings and gloves. 

Relief for states and local governments: Adjusts the cost share for assistance provided under any Stafford Act declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic from 75% Federal/25% non-Federal to 100% Federal.

Provides assistance for activities, costs, and purchases of States, local, or eligible private non-profits, including activities eligible under the Stafford Act including, but not limited to: backfill costs for first responders, increased operating costs for essential government services, costs of providing public guidance and information, costs for establishing virtual services and operating remote test sites, training provided in anticipation of, or response to, to the next emergency declaration, personal protective equipment for first responders, public health and medical supplies, non-congregate sheltering, food preparation and delivery to impacted communities, and funeral benefits. 

Establishes protections within federally leased buildings: Requires the General Services Administration (GSA) to take action to prevent airborne transmission of COVID–19 through air conditioning, heating, ventilating, and water systems in facilities owned or leased by the GSA to ensure safe and healthy indoor environments for Federal employees. It also states that GSA should prioritize indoor air and water environmental quality in facilities and energy-saving building technologies and products.

Protections for GSA tenants: Prohibits GSA from referring any non-Federal tenants in GSA-owned facilities to a debt collection agency during the COVID–19 pandemic. 

Relief for low-income households: Appropriates $1.5 billion in grants for ensuring the continued operation of critical water and wastewater treatment systems, while assisting low-income households and households adversely affected by COVID-19 in paying water and wastewater utility costs. 

Establishes a new Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Assistance program where States (including U.S. Territories) and Indian Tribes can receive Federal grants to assist low-income households in paying their drinking water and wastewater utility bills during public health emergencies. 


The text of The Heroes Act, H.R. 6800, is here. A section-by-section summary is here.