The Senate failed to pass an interim emergency funding package on April 9 that would have provided additional supplementary funding to specific economic sectors impacted by COVID-19. This follows the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136), a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law on March 27 [see Washington Highlights, March 27].
In the pro forma session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced an emergency COVID-19 relief measure to increase funding by $250 billion for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, originally established in the CARES Act. The additional funding would increase the new program to a total of $600 billion in funding. The unanimous consent request was objected to by Senate Democrats, who pushed lawmakers to also include funding in the package for health care providers and state and local governments.
Following the Senate debate, AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, sent an April 9 letter to congressional leaders sharing the AAMC’s support for the inclusion of “at least an additional $100 billion to the Provider Relief Fund” authorized in the CARES Act in an interim funding package. Skorton also urged congressional leaders to provide $26 billion in emergency appropriations to federal research agencies to support the research workforce during the national emergency, noting that the AAMC would be sharing a set of more extensive recommendations for Congress’ negotiations around future legislative packages.
The support for researchers and research infrastructure echoed an April 7 letter the AAMC co-authored with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Universities, and the American Council on Education that urges congressional leaders to “sustain the critical human infrastructure that undergirds the U.S. research enterprise and forms the basis of the longstanding government-university partnership that has been essential to ensuring our public health, national security, and economic growth and competitiveness for decades.”
The letter outlines six areas of COVID-19-related impact to the research enterprise, emphasizing the need for the additional $26 billion in supplemental funding and other actions to mitigate disruptions related to COVID-19 on the nation’s research workforce and federally funded basic and applied research. This follows the organizations’ March 19 letter providing similar recommendations in advance of congressional consideration of the CARES Act [see Washington Highlights, March 20].
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced the congressional Democrats’ alternative proposal that would provide $500 billion to support CARES Act programs and initiatives, including $100 billion in additional funding for the Provider Relief Fund (see related story), $150 billion for state and local governments, and additional support for low-income families, in addition to the $250 billion for small businesses that was initially proposed. Leader McConnell objected to a unanimous consent vote on the proposal, originally released by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on April 8. The interim emergency package would provide emergency relief to select programs while Congress crafts a larger fourth supplemental package to consider when they are back in session.
The Senate is next scheduled to meet on Monday, April 13, in a pro forma session.