Congress Needs to Pass Emergency Supplemental Bill to Deal with Coronavirus Impact in Health

BPC Action applauds bipartisan efforts by Congress and the Administration to appropriate new emergency funding in response to COVID-19. It is imperative that Congress promptly pass an emergency supplemental bill with sufficient resources. 

In 2005, President Bush requested a total of $7.1 billion in emergency funding for pandemic influenza preparedness activities in response to H5N1 avian influenza (“bird flu”).  In 2009, President Obama requested nearly $9 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations and transfer authority from existing HHS accounts in response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. 

While it is hard to compare pandemic responses, there is a substantial need to support various activities promptly, including vaccine and therapeutic development, state & local public health surveillance and response activities, global health security support, stockpiling of critical medical material, and enhancing medical surge capacity. A robust response which includes all of these activities will require adequate funding. 

Specifically related to state & local public health activities, the Public Health Leadership Forum has documented a $4.5 billion annual funding gap in the foundational capabilities to assure conditions in which people can be healthy.

“While past public health emergency preparedness grants have built up the capacity of health departments nationwide, these investments, in and of themselves, are not adequate to fund an actual response as is required in this case,” said Dr. Anand Parekh, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s chief medical advisor.

It is also important that Congress and the Administration not tap into funds allocated for the prevention and treatment of Ebola. We must ensure that responses to infectious disease outbreaks do not “rob Peter to pay Paul,” as we live in a world where we must be vigilant to deal with multiple simultaneous threats.   The faster the response is at the outset, the more likely we are to buy time and delay the brunt of the pandemic until a time when vaccines and therapeutics are available. BPC Action looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that swift bipartisan action is taken to support the response to COVID-19.

BPC’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anand Parekh shares more on the global impact of the coronavirus – listen here!