FY 2021 Appropriations Move Forward in House
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), moved forward with an aggressive schedule to mark up all 12 appropriations bills and send them to the House floor by the end of July. Several of the bills contain emergency provisions that would provide significant funding beyond the “regular” levels proposed for FY 21 to assist agencies with the continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet set a schedule for consideration of its FY 21 appropriations bills. In the interim, we anticipate that an additional emergency supplemental bill will be needed before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.
The American Society for Microbiology is closely following the FY 21 appropriations process and continuing to advocate for investment in our research ecosystem and public health infrastructure. Given the breadth and diversity of the microbial sciences field, there are multiple federal agencies and programs that influence the work of ASM and its members.
It is important to note that the House bills are the opening salvo in the FY 21 process, and ultimately, will have to be negotiated with bills that come out of the Senate. The Senate timetable remains uncertain, as the chamber appears to be more focused on the next COVID-19 supplemental bill with emergency funding than on the FY 21 appropriations bills. The prevailing wisdom at the moment is that a Continuing Resolution (CR) will be needed to fund the government past September 30 and through the elections. Whether FY 21 will be resolved in a "lame duck" session in late 2020 or punted into 2021 depends in large part on the outcome of the fall elections.
What does this mean for federal funding that supports the microbial sciences and public health?
Given both the pandemic and the politics of an election year, it is unlikely that the annual appropriations for FY 21 will be finalized until weeks, possibly months, after the fiscal year ends on September 30. A CR will avoid a shutdown when the fiscal year ends on September 30, but also keeps funding at current levels and does not allow any new projects to commence.
What about emergency funding?
The budget caps, put into place for FY 21 prior to the pandemic, presented significant challenges to meeting the needs of agencies, particularly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) as a result of the pandemic. As a result, House Appropriations Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and other subcommittee chairs proposed "regular" FY 21 funding levels that fit within the caps, and supplemented those dollars with emergency spending provisions in the bill that far exceeded the modest increases for 2021. It is likely that this proposed emergency funding will go in a separate relief bill and not in conjunction with regular FY 21 funding.
ASM calls on Congress to enact funding levels that allow us to seize the tremendous opportunities in science and innovation and address our pressing public health needs.