CSTE logo
This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
CSTE Features
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   


View all (190) posts »

CSTE Update on Congressional COVID-19 Relief Package

Posted By Meghan Riley, Vice President, CRD Associates, Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, October 14, 2020

CSTE update from Washington, DC.

After coming together to enact several rounds of COVID-19 relief legislation earlier this year, Congress has failed since May to negotiate a fourth round of assistance for states, businesses, and individuals impacted by the pandemic. The House of Representatives and Senate have tried to advance differing levels of relief, but congressional leadership and the Trump administration have not found enough common ground to move legislation over the finish line. As the election rapidly approaches there is a renewed effort to pass relief legislation. However, negotiators have yet to come to an agreement on the size and scope of a legislative package and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled unwillingness to pass legislation in the $1.6 trillion to $2.2 trillion range that Speaker Pelosi and the Administration are negotiating. Both the House and Senate are currently in recess, but could return to Washington if a vote is on the horizon. While President Trump announced last week that he is ending negotiations until after the election, he has since relented and some talks have have continued. Both the House and Senate are currently in recess, but could return to Washington if a vote is on the horizon.

On May 15 the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which would provide upwards of $3 trillion in funding, including:

  • Nearly $1 trillion in relief to state, local, and tribal governments;
  • $75 billion for testing, contact tracing and surveillance;
  • $100 billion in relief for hospitals and health care providers; 
  • $3.5 billion for vaccine and therapeutic development;
  • Direct assistance to individuals and extended unemployment benefits; 
  • Support for small businesses; and
  • $130 billion in funding for public health data infrastructure modernization.

The Senate did not take up the HEROES Act. Instead, in July, Senate leadership attempted to advance the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, a package of eight bills to provide $1 trillion in relief, including:

  • $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance;
  • $20 billion for vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic development;
  • $6 billion for vaccine distribution planning;
  • $25 billion in relief for hospitals and health care providers;
  • Direct assistance to individuals and a modified extension of unemployment benefits; and 
  • Support for small businesses.

The Senate failed to secure enough votes in the Senate to move the HEALS proposal. Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Administration officials continued on and off throughout the summer. While Speaker Pelosi offered to scale down from the House’s position of $3 trillion, the Administration and Senate Republicans have been unwilling to meet halfway to advance a $2 trillion package. In September, the Senate again failed to pass a $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill that was similar in scope to the HEALS package.

Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations
Congress did succeed in passing legislation to fund the federal government and avert a shutdown prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30. The continuing resolution (CR) extends current funding for most government agencies and programs and contains very little funding associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The House passed the CR on September 22. The Senate followed on September 30 and the President signed the legislation into law. 

Data Modernization 
Enveloped in the COVID-19 relief negotiations is how the federal government will continue to support and fund the public health Data Modernization Initiative (DMI). As of March, Congress had provided a total of $550 million to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for DMI. Those funds are just now beginning to flow to states in support of critical system upgrades. Compared to the need, this funding is just a drop in the bucket. CSTE continues to advocate in Congress for another injection of foundational funding as well as for sustained investment. As noted, $130 billion for this purpose was provided in the House-passed HEROES Act. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has enlightened Congress about the long overdue need to improve public health data infrastructure, but the need is greater than the pandemic alone. On September 23 Executive Director of CSTE, Janet Hamilton testified at a hearing entitled Data for Decision-Making: Responsible Management of Data During COVID-19 and Beyond before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Janet’s testimony highlighted the importance of robust, interoperable public health data systems in responding to not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but to any future public health crisis. You can view the hearing on the committee’s website. 

CSTE is working overtime to ensure not only that Congress continue to invest in DMI, but also that CDC prioritize furthering DMI. Over the past several months several Members of Congress have contacted CSTE for input on new legislation related to data, surveillance, contact tracing and other issues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. CSTE is working closely with Congress and remains committed to ensuring that DMI at the CDC focuses on building a data superhighway that lives beyond COVID-19 and positions our public health professionals to respond swiftly and effectively to all emerging threats.  

Meghan Riley is vice president at Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates, LLC, which represents CSTE’s interests on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.


This post has not been tagged.

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)