President Signs $8.3 Billion Bill to Fight Coronavirus Outbreak Into Law
Proving that Congress can move swiftly if they choose, lawmakers sent the President an emergency spending measure designed to prevent, detect and respond to the spread of coronavirus and the resulting disease, COVID-19, it is currently causing around the world. On Wednesday, just hours after the bill was introduced in the House, it passed by a vote of 415-2 after only 15 minutes of debate. On Thursday, the Senate approved it 96 to 1. Today, the President signed the bill into law.
While the President recently requested only $2.5 billion and wanted to redirect current funds for half of that total, Congress more than tripled the figure to $8.3 billion and used budgetary procedures to ensure it would not have to offset the funding from other programs.
The bill (H.R. 6074) would reimburse state and local governments for the costs of preparing for and combating the disease. It includes $3.1 billion to stockpile medical supplies and $300 million for government purchases of tests, vaccines and therapies to ensure that the poor have access. Lawmakers haggled over how to make sure that an eventual vaccine is affordable to Americans. The legislation seeks to ensure the federal government pays a fair price for vaccines, and allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to regulate its commercial price. Democrats had initially sought a stricter price cap.
The legislation would provide $6.5 billion for HHS and $1.25 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. That includes:
- $3.1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to develop and purchase vaccines and medical supplies, plus an additional $300 million in contingency funds to purchase vaccines if HHS certifies it necessary. Initial funding would also include $100 million for community health centers.
- $2.2 billion to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including $950 million for state and local preparedness grants, $300 million for global disease detection and response, and $300 million for the U.S. government's Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.
- $836 million for the National Institutes of Health, most of which would go to the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The bill would also set aside $10 million for worker-based training to prevent and reduce exposure to health workers.
- $435 million for international public health programs, including $200 million to the U.S. Emergency Reserve Fund. Another $300 million would go toward humanitarian and health assistance in affected areas
While the bill moved too quickly through Congress to lobby for dedicated funds to support efforts by the Aging Network, n4a will be looking for subsequent policy opportunities to advocate. Meanwhile, we are exploring ways to best support your agencies—our members—during this national health emergency. If you have suggestions for what n4a can do, or you want to share with others examples of your local preparations, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.