Congress continues to work on COVID-19 response activities. The House and Senate recently enacted a narrow package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act, which focuses on additional health funding and economic stimulus measures. Specifically, the package includes billions in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health entities.
The House and Senate remain at odds over a subsequent, comprehensive COVID-19 response package. The House recently passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which lays out a broad set of priorities. Most notably, the proposal provides further investment in NIH and support for academic health centers across the country to maintain biomedical research infrastructure. The HEROES Act also includes comprehensive testing/tracing resources, access for uninsured and underinsured, and targeted economic relief measures. The Senate is still considering its options ahead of negotiating a compromise package.
While COVID-19 continues to be the primary focus of policymakers, Congress is also working to return to “regular” order and advance other legislative priorities. Most notably, the House and Senate appropriations committees have stuck to internal deadlines for crafting the FY 2021 spending bills. Recently, the House approved virtual committee work and remote voting to further facilitate moving the spending measures (and other bills) forward. The House and Senate have reiterated their respective commitments to have their FY 2021 appropriations bills marked up before the August recess.