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Congress Urges HHS Secretary to Direct Additional Funds to Clinical Labs During COVID-19 Pandemic

NEW YORK – Members of Congress on Monday sent the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar a letter urging him to direct federal funds to support clinical laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bipartisan group of 30 US House of Representatives members requested Azar direct money from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to help labs expand their capacity for SARS-CoV-2 testing throughout the US.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which passed the Senate in April, allocated $25 billion to improve testing capacity. Labs and other healthcare providers are eligible for these funds. Meanwhile, states, localities, territories, tribes, and employers will receive $11 billion of the $25 billion to scale up their SARS-CoV-2 testing.

The letter noted the revenue declines that labs have faced as they were forced to focus on SARS-CoV-2 testing and had to bypass routine work, as well as the lack of federal funds provided specifically for these labs.

"There have been no federal funds specifically designated for the laboratories that have stepped up in this public health crisis and have made significant investments to expand access to COVID-19 testing despite 40-60 percent reductions in regular commercial volume due to the economic lockdowns," the letter said.

At the end of April, American Clinical Laboratory Association President Julie Khani sent Azar a letter requesting the department allocate $10 billion from the PHSSEF to support expanded testing capacity for both diagnostic and serologic tests.