All US federal and local agencies fighting coronavirus will get large chunks of federal funding to assist their efforts, thanks to passage of an $8.3bn emergency supplemental spending bill approved by Congress and signed by the President last Friday.
In addition, support to keep the virus contained is pouring in from some unexpected quarters, including the private health insurance industry – which is volunteering to pick up the costs of co-pays for coronavirus testing for its beneficiaries – and the US Justice Department, which is working hard to crack down on manufacturers who try to fix prices for urgently needed personal health equipment and masks.
“With the recently enacted $8.3bn emergency supplemental, the federal government can aid state and local health departments in mitigating the extent of the virus.” – Nita Lowey
Under the supplemental funding bill, the FDA will receive $61m to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. The agency’s major role is to help develop and review diagnostics, devices, therapies and other medical countermeasures to combat coronavirus under its emergency use authorization (EUA) procedures, according to asummary of supplemental funding bill H.R. 6074.
Additionally, the measure directs the FDA to use the funding to help medical product manufacturers maintain the US national drug and device product inventory through extensive outreach to companies to identify and mitigate potential supply chain interruptions. Funds will also assist FDA’s enforcement arm in taking action against counterfeit and misbranded products.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs underlined the need to support localities with the funding. “With the recently enacted $8.3bn emergency supplemental, the federal government can aid state and local health departments in mitigating the extent of the virus,” said House Appropriations Panel Chair Nita Lowey, D-NY., while Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby, R-AL, noted that the funding “attacks the crisis at the local, state, federal and international levels.”
CDC Dollars Go To Local Testing Support, Epidemiological Work
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) role is to distribute $2.2bn to support federal, state and local public health agencies to respond to the coronavirus through surveillance for the virus, laboratory testing to detect cases of the disease, contact tracing to find additional cases, and infection control at the local level.
Further, $300m of CDC’s portion of the supplemental funding will go to replenish the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which was drawn down during late January and February responses to control COVID-19. An additional $300m is earmarked for global disease detection and emergency response.
A general provision under CDC’s allotment would reimburse state and local costs incurred between 20 January and 6 March, and could also be used to construct or renovate facilities to improve preparedness and response capabilities to the virus at the state and local level.
The funding also supports CDC’s repatriation and quarantine efforts, laboratory testing, emergency operations, and epidemiological investigations, according to a summary of H.R. 6074.
Funding To Research, Advance, Vaccines And Diagnostics Allotted
Other federal government authorities including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive dollars for research and development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
For example, BARDA gets $2bn to support the creation of the countermeasures to identify and control coronavirus, prioritizing platform-based technologies, while $826m goes to NIH to support basic R&D on treatments, vaccines and COVID-19 assays.
A provision in the supplemental funding bill states that any vaccines, therapeutics or tests developed using taxpayer funds “must be available for purchase by the federal government at a fair and reasonable price.”
DOJ Protects Against COVID-19 Equipment Bid Rigging
While additional dollars for the Department of Justice were not mentioned in the summary of the supplemental funding bill’s allocations, the DOJ also announced that it is doing its part to respond to the coronavirus outbreak by holding accountable anyone who manufacturers, distributes or sells public health products used for the virus in a fraudulent manner.
Attorney General William Barr said that “individuals or companies that fix prices or rig bids for personal health protection equipment such as sterile gloves and could face criminal prosecution.” He added that competitors who agree to allocate among themselves consumers of public health products could also be prosecuted.