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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Continues Push for Research Funds in Next COVID-19 Relief Package


    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    As negotiators debated how to move forward on another COVID-19 relief package, the AAMC and other stakeholders encouraged House, Senate, and administration leaders to ensure the next package includes investments to support the federal research enterprise, among other priorities (see related stories on student loans and health care coverage.

    The AAMC and nearly 180 members of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research sent an Aug. 6 letter urging congressional and White House leaders to work quickly to finalize a bipartisan agreement and support emergency funding of at least $15.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    The letter praised both the Senate HEALS Act and House-passed Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) [see Washington Highlights, May 15] for recognizing the need to fund new COVID-19 research and provide support for researchers as they resume pre-pandemic research related to many other conditions, and it urged negotiators to adopt the Senate’s higher $15.5 billion figure in the final package. The letter also emphasized how NIH funding supports the economy, noting, “Emergency funding to support the federal biomedical research enterprise will help efforts to sustain and restore the nation’s economic health broadly, while also aiding early career investigators who are particularly susceptible to career disruptions as a result of the pandemic.”

    Congressional members also showed bipartisan support for including $15.5 billion in supplemental funding for the NIH in the next relief package. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) led 43 members of the House of Representatives, while Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led 21 senators in a separate Aug. 6 letter outlining the importance of supporting the medical research enterprise amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

    In addition to advocating for investment in the NIH, the AAMC also joined the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the American Council on Education in emphasizing the need to provide research relief for other federal science agencies as well. In an Aug. 3 letter to congressional and White House leadership, the higher education organizations reiterated their recommendation of at least $26 billion in supplemental COVID-19 emergency relief funding to all federal research agencies [see Washington HighlightsMarch 20April 10, May 29].

    The letter expressed appreciation that the Senate proposal includes the NIH’s portion of the group’s $26 billion recommendation and urges similar investment for other agencies. “Additional funds must be provided for federal research agencies to avoid an entire generation of researchers permanently being forced out of the jobs that are the innovation engine of our economy. The relief that we seek would help avoid long-term and devastating consequences to federal research that drives American innovation, economic competitiveness, and security,” the letter stated.

    After more than a week of deliberations, congressional and White House leaders at press time had not yet reached an agreement on the scope of the next COVID-19 emergency supplemental relief package, with White House negotiators suggesting they may end negotiations if they have not reached resolution by Aug. 7.