March 27, 2020
Following days of negotiations, on Wednesday, March 25th, the Senate passed the third COVID-19 stimulus bill – Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (S. 3548). Having resolved differences on the provisions for local government funds, aid to hospitals, food stamps, and assistance to the airlines, the package headed to the House and was passed on Friday. Several Senators have been unable to vote due to being quarantined. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for the virus and others have self-quarantined due to known exposure.
The bill totals roughly $2 trillion, and below are several provisions on interest:
- NSF – The bill includes $75 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support research at all levels to better understand coronavirus through Rapid Response Research (RAPID) proposals.
- NIH – An additional $945 million will be made available to expand on prior research plans, including developing an improved understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19, its transmission and the natural history of infection, novel approaches to diagnosing the disease and past infection, and developing countermeasures for the prevention and treatment of its various stages.
- Department of Education – $14.25 billion will be available for institutions of higher education to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. Funds may be used to defray expenses of institutions of higher education, such as lost revenue, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, and grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.
- Small Business Administration – Emergency loans and grant opportunities have been extended to 501(c)3s and businesses with fewer than 500 employees to cover payroll and other operating expenses.
- Charitable contributions – A provision is included that encourages Americans to contribute to churches and charitable organizations in 2020 by permitting them to deduct up to $300 of cash contributions, whether they itemize their deductions or not.
On March 18, The Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law. Provisions include expanding paid sick leave, guaranteeing free COVID-19 testing, increasing funding for and access to nutrition assistance programs, and bolstering unemployment insurance and Medicaid.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) was signed into law on March 6th. This bill provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies including Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the State Department, and the Small Business Administration, to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt, once the third stimulus clears Congress, lawmakers will likely leave D.C. for three weeks. He told reporters that he expects lawmakers will continue to work on a fourth relief package and possibly a fifth.
Last week, the White House issued an amendment to its FY 2021 budget request released at the beginning of February, reversing its recommendation for sizable cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The revised budget adds $1.3 billion to the request for the CDC and $440 million for the NIAID.
Meanwhile, the House and the Senate still need to get back to the regularly all encompassing and demanding appropriations process. FABBS submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science regarding funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. Consistent with the Coalition for National Science Funding, of which FABBS is a co-chair – FABBS urged Congress to provide at least a $9 billion appropriation for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in FY 2021. FABBS also provided testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, identifying FABBS priorities for FY 2021: National Institutes of Health at least $44.7 billion; National Center for Health Statistics at least $189 million; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at least $471 million; Institute of Education Sciences at least $670 million.