December 21, 2020
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today announced that the COVID relief package includes several investments in key health and education programs. The agreement is the product of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and is expected to be considered by the House and Senate shortly.
“This year has been one of the most difficult years for our nation in a generation,” said Blunt. “As I have said many times in the past several months, I believe it is critical to pass a bill with additional resources for COVID-19-related programs. It is unfortunate that our Democrat colleagues spent months standing in the way of a relief package, but I’m glad we have reached a bipartisan agreement that reflects our most urgent COVID-response priorities. This bill provides funding to continue the development, production, purchase, and distribution of vaccines; funding to reopen schools and child care facilities and keep them safe; and resources targeted to those whose mental health and substance use disorders have been exacerbated by the pandemic. This package deserves the support of the full Senate and I look forward to quickly getting it to the president’s desk.”
Following Are Some of the Key Health and Education Priorities Included in the Latest Round of COVID-19 Relief:
Vaccine and Therapeutic Development, Production, and Purchase: $19.695 billion to continue supporting critical efforts to ensure Americans receive vaccines and therapeutics in record time. Blunt recently highlighted the success Operation Warp Speed has had in accelerating the development of safe and effective vaccines.
Vaccine Distribution: $8.75 billion provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccines to ensure broad-based distribution, access, and vaccine coverage to all Americans. Blunt held a Labor/HHS hearing in September where he pressed top HHS officials on preparations for vaccine distribution.
Testing and Contact Tracing: $22.4 billion is provided to states, localities, territories, and tribes for testing, contact tracing, containment, and mitigation to monitor and suppress the coronavirus. This funding will help ensure Americans can continue to get tests when and where they need them, and that test results are made available as quickly as possible.
Strategic National Stockpile: $3.25 billion is provided to secure PPE and other supplies to support availability of these critical supplies during the pandemic.
Provider Relief Fund: $3 billion is provided. Language is included directing 85% of unobligated balances or funds recovered to be for future distributions based on applications that consider financial losses and changes in operating expenses occurring in the third or fourth quarter of calendar year 2020, or the first quarter of calendar year 2021. Language is also included clarifying the definition of lost revenue for hospitals and allowing hospital systems to transfer COVID funds among hospitals in their system.
National Institutes of Health Research: $1.25 billion, with $1.15 billion for research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and $100 million to support the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program that Blunt started with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) to speed the development and commercialization of COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first in-home COVID-19 test, which was supported by the RADx program. Blunt previously announced that RADx-UP funding was awarded to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Washington University in St. Louis to improve testing among underserved and vulnerable communities.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Administration: $4.25 billion for substance abuse and mental health
treatment and prevention. This includes robust investments in the Mental Health
and Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention block grants. The bill also
invests in suicide prevention, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics,
and targets funding to individual behavioral health providers.
Child Care: $10 billion to provide
additional assistance to working families, and support child care providers
experiencing increased operating expenses and decreased revenue related to
Head Start: $250 million to help Head Start programs with additional costs related to COVID-19 so they can continue to provide high-quality early childhood education to children and families.
Education: $82 billion to support students, teachers, schools, and families with additional education needs related to COVID, including:
o Elementary and Secondary Education: $54.3 billion to help elementary and secondary schools safely re-open or remain open, and help begin to address the effects this school year has had on student learning, including $2.75 billion in dedicated funding for private schools and their students;
Higher Education: $22.7 billion to
support both students and institutions of higher education to address
additional needs and costs related to COVID-19; and
o Governors Fund: $4.1 billion in flexible funding for states to address the educational needs of students, from early childhood through college and career.