WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to bolster public health resources and help stop the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the U.S. Senate today approved a bipartisan $8 billion funding package to combat the outbreak.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, supported the measure, which was approved on a vote of 96-1.  It was approved yesterday by the full U.S. House of Representatives on a 415-2 vote.  The measure now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“This emergency funding is a down payment that will help ensure Rhode Island has the resources to prepare and effectively respond to the coronavirus crisis.  Congress must be prepared to take additional steps if the outbreak spreads and the situation on the ground warrants.  President Trump should sign this bill without delay and speed assistance to those who need it most,” said Senator Reed.

The bill provides $7.8 billion in appropriations, as well as a $500 million authorization for a telehealth program to expand access to health services for seniors, for a total of $8.3 billion in all.  The bill includes:

•  $3.1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which may be used toward testing, diagnostics, the Strategic National Stockpile, hospital preparedness, and vaccines.  Included within that total is $300 million to help ensure that when a vaccine is developed, all Americans, regardless of income, can receive it.  And $61 million is for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and approve vaccines, enhance emergency use authorizations, and advance continuous manufacturing.

•  $2.2 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This includes $1 billion for state and local preparedness, half of which will go to states, cities, and tribes within 30 days.  There is a small state minimum, which ensures Rhode Island will receive at least $4.9 million from this federal funding.  The CDC has already released an initial $500,000 of this funding to Rhode Island to help pay for activities such as monitoring of travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, infection control, and surge staffing.  Once the supplemental funding is approved, additional support will be provided to all states and local jurisdictions for a variety of critical public health activities.

•  Reimbursement for states and local governments for costs incurred responding to coronavirus prior to the date of enactment of this bill.

•  Nearly $1 billion for health care preparedness, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and community health.  This includes $500 million for procurement of pharmaceuticals, masks, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which can be distributed to state and local health agencies in areas with shortage of medical supplies, as well as $100 million for Community Health Centers, supporting smaller health clinics in under-served urban and rural areas. Funding is also included for medical surge capacity, which will increase the supply of biocontainment beds at health facilities across the country.

•  $1.25 billion to combat the public health threat from coronavirus overseas to prevent and respond to wider spread of the virus.   This includes funds for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), including money for evacuations of U.S. citizens and humanitarian assistance.

•  $1 billion in loan subsidies that would help the U.S. Small Business Administration provide $7 billion in low-interest loans for small businesses impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

•  Reimbursement of up to $136 million to important health care programs.  The Trump Administration diverted money from critical health care programs, including for mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention, and $37 million for the  Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), to support its novel coronavirus response.  This bill fully restores funds to those programs.  As a result, Rhode Island should receive an additional $130,000 in LIHEAP assistance this year to help seniors and families in need with their energy bills.