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Cole Supports Emergency Funding for U.S. Response to Coronavirus

March 4, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The emergency funding package provides $7.8 billion for the nation’s ongoing preparation for, prevention of and response to COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China. Cole is the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“As the United States continues to monitor and respond to coronavirus, I am encouraged that Congress and the Administration worked together across party lines to deliver critical resources for the days ahead. In such a highly polarized and partisan environment, I am very encouraged that we could set aside our differences and quickly deliver on such a high priority item for the health and safety of the American people,” said Cole.

“Fortunately, long before the coronavirus, Congress was already preparing for this sort of public health emergency. Five years ago, Congress began shaping policies and prioritizing investment in our readiness – including boosting funding year after year for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Strategic Stockpile of medications and other medical supplies. But perhaps our greatest lifeline these past several weeks was the prior establishment of and investment in the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which was immediately available to our public health defenders. Indeed, because Congress had the tools in place ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, the Trump Administration has been able to direct a swift and decisive response from day one, not losing any time in protecting our citizens. 

“While there is still a long road ahead with many unknowns, I am encouraged that one of those unknowns is not whether the funding will be there for our public health defenders to continue their response. Along with providing generous funding for the resources we need to prepare for, prevent and respond to the coronavirus, I am proud that the supplemental responsibly replenishes the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund with $300 million. And I am pleased that $40 million is provided specifically for tribal nations and their health care organizations to deal with the challenges ahead. Moreover, and of particular importance to rural communities, I am pleased that the package includes telehealth language that will ensure patients can get the care they need at home.”

The emergency supplemental includes:

  • More than $4 billion to make diagnostic tests more broadly available; to support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus; and to invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they are available
  • $2.2 billion for the CDC, including nearly $1 billion exclusively for state and local response efforts and $300 million for the CDC’s Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund
  • $3.1 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, including for procurement of medical supplies to supplement the Strategic National Stockpile and support federal and state response efforts; research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and hospital and health system preparedness
  • $836 million for the NIH, including for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics
  • $20 million to administer disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the virus.
  • $1.25 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect Americans abroad and prevent the spread of the virus worldwide

Legislative text is available here.

Background on the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund

During his tenure as LHHS Chairman, Cole in fiscal year 2017 proposed creation of the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Reserve Fund to be used for quickly responding to a future or imminent infectious disease crisis that endangers American lives. Originally proposed at $300 million, the fund was ultimately initiated with $50 million in fiscal year 2019 and the ability for unspent funding to accumulate over time. During the most recent Ebola virus outbreak, the CDC was able to utilize up to $30 million from the fund in fiscal year 2019 for rapid response efforts. As a result of Cole’s leadership, with respect to the coronavirus over the last several weeks, the CDC had immediate access to more than $100 million in this reserve – including funds carried over from fiscal year 2019 and $85 million from the most recent fiscal year 2020 appropriation. 

Shortly after cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in the United States, Cole penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, noting that congressional foresight and investment in disease readiness over the last five years ensured the U.S. was prepared. Read the op-ed published on January 31 here.