October 8, 2020
The federal government is operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that extends fiscal year (FY) 2020 government funding levels through December 11. The President signed the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 8337) into law early on October 1, following the Senate having passed the CR by a vote of 84-10 on Sept. 30, and the bill’s passage in the House of Representatives on Sept. 22 by a vote of 359-57 . The CR does not include additional funds for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address COVID-19, but does include language allowing NIH to provide no cost extensions to specific grants set to expire on September 30, 2020. Following the Presidential election in November, the House and Senate will need to come to an agreement to keep the government open past December 11.
Once considered a failure of Congress to do their primary job of passing a budget, CRs have become fairly common. However, CRs are inefficient and present significant challenges to federal agencies and federally funded researchers who must prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown and maybe required to postpone many funding decisions. The Coalition of Health Funding, of which FABBS is a member, sent this letter to Congress, describing the disruptions and challenges that CRs pose to research and public health.
After a few glimmers of hope that Congress might be able to pass additional COVID-19 relief before heading home for elections, President Trump announced on Tuesday that he was ending any negotiations. On Thursday new, albeit tempered hope, was being voiced by some advocates. House Democrats passed the Heroes Act last week by a narrow vote. The $2.2 trillion relief bill includes $4.7 billion for NIH, $2.9 billion for the National Science Foundation, $32 million for the Institute of Education Sciences, and additional funding for other research agencies. FABBS has been working with the broad science community to provide relief to federal agencies funding research. (See Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research September 25 statement.)