President Trump signed into law a supplemental spending package on March 6 to help combat the coronavirus, following the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives on March 4 and in the Senate on March 5 by votes of 415-2 and 96-1, respectively.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 (HR 6074) provides $7.8 billion in new emergency funding and eases certain telehealth requirements while the coronavirus emergency declaration is active.
In response to congressional action on the supplemental package, AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, MD, issued a press statement applauding lawmakers for quickly drafting and passing the emergency funding. Dr. Skorton noted, “The bill’s investments in vaccine and medical countermeasure research and development, support for state and local preparedness and response, and allowances for the use of telehealth will be important tools to help safeguard the public’s health in the face of this new threat.”
Among other efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Small Business Administration, and State Department, the supplemental funds provide $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes $950 million in grants and cooperative agreements for state and local surveillance, half of which will be available to state and local health departments immediately. The CDC also receives at least $300 million for global disease detection and emergency response and $300 million for the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.
The bill invests $836 million in vaccine research and development at the National Institutes of Health and $61 million in the Food and Drug Administration. Lawmakers provided $3.1 billion to the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to support medical surge capacity, the development and purchase of necessary countermeasures, and the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and medical supplies, with an additional $300 million in contingency funding if public health needs require purchase of more products.
The package also authorizes the secretary of HHS to waive, under the public health emergency declaration for the novel coronavirus, certain current telehealth requirements by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The AAMC also joined a Feb. 28 letter to House and Senate appropriators sharing concern about the potential for domestic spread of COVID-19 and urging appropriators to “quickly pass emergency supplemental funding sufficient to provide the needed resources for a comprehensive national and international response.”
Congress held several hearings on the coronavirus throughout the week of March 2 in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Accountability Committee, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Each hearing included pertinent federal agency officials, each tasked with an aspect of responding to the coronavirus outbreak.