What You Need to Know About Federal Emergency Supplemental Funding for COVID-19

April 02, 2020|9:28 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

To prepare and respond to COVID-19, Congress and the Administration approved three emergency supplemental bills for the federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governmental agencies. Emergency supplemental bills are not unique to public health emergency response efforts—Ebola, Zika, H1N1, and various natural disasters all saw Congress approve multiple emergency supplemental funding bills to ensure resources were allocated to address those threats.

Here are some key things to keep in mind about this money and the upcoming efforts to provide financial relief.

It is important to note, emergency supplemental bills do not have to adhere to the strict spending limits or caps on overall discretionary spending that Congress normally sets in place and these bills are not offset by other spending reductions. This is critical given the current global pandemic and the need to allocate resources quickly. While Congress appropriates emergency supplemental funding rapidly, there is still a need for Congress to provide sustained, increased, and predictable funding for the entire public health continuum through the annual appropriations process. After all, health officials still have to address the ongoing opioid crisis, food-borne outbreaks, and continue chronic disease prevention programs.

Throughout these three emergency supplemental bill efforts, it was clear that Congress listened to and prioritized the needs of state, territorial, and local health departments. Some high-level public health needs were addressed, like:

  • CDC is receiving a total allocation of $6.5 billion, with $2.4 billion that will be available directly for states, locals, and territories to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, and other vital functions in their preparedness and response efforts.
  • $800 million for global disease detection and emergency response.
  • $500 million for public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization.
  • $600 million transferred to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Fund, which was created to prevent, prepare, and respond to infectious disease emergencies, both domestically and internationally.

There were several investments within the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in order to develop the necessary countermeasures and vaccines—as well as increasing the capability for the purchase of vaccines, therapeutics, and necessary medical supplies. This will support public health departments in their work to engage in surveillance, infection control, communication, and other preparedness activities.

In addition, every state is expected to receive at least $1.25 billion from the newly established coronavirus relief fund and $8 billion will go to tribal governments and $3 billion for the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. This funding will provide public health departments with the much-needed investment to continue in their work to mitigate the spread of the virus. ASTHO is currently partnering with the National Governors Association and others to provide recommendations on how these resources should be allocated and the types of programs these funds should go towards.

Looking ahead, Congress and the Administration are expected to consider an additional emergency supplemental package in the upcoming weeks. Congress could start drafting a fourth emergency supplemental bill as soon as this weekend. Speaker Pelosi indicated her priorities for the upcoming bill include:

  • A better definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave.
  • Health care worker and pension protection.
  • Increasing SNAP benefits by 15 percent.
  • More funds to state and local governments.
  • Free coronavirus testing, doctor visits, and follow-up treatment.
  • Equitable funding for Washington, D.C. residents.
  • A higher amount of direct payments to Americans.

However, since Congress is currently on recess through April 20 any bill released next would mark the beginning of negotiations—not the end.

ASTHO will continue to monitor and provide input on state public health needs for future spending packages to support the recovery phase of our response to COVID-19. For more information on all supplemental funding packages, please read ASTHO’s legislative alerts that provide high level summaries of public health appropriations and provisions within each bill.