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Senate Republicans Propose $36B for HHS Coronavirus Testing, Drug Development

NEW YORK — Senate Republicans on Monday introduced a funding package to address the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic that includes $36 billion to support disease testing and monitoring, as well as for diagnostic development, by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The legislation, which was introduced by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), specifically earmarks $16 billion for use by the HHS' Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for SARS-CoV-2 testing, contact tracing, and surveillance in states. With roughly $9 billion still unallocated from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, this fund would have $25 billion for these purposes.

Meanwhile, HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would receive $20 billion for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic development.

In addition, the legislation calls for $3.4 billion to go to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of which $1.5 billion would be used to support state, local, and territorial public health needs; $500 million to enhance seasonal influenza vaccination efforts; $200 million to enhance global public health security efforts; and $200 million to modernize public health data reporting.

Senate Democrat response to the proposed legislation, however, was negative. In a statement, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called the spending proposal "disjointed, inadequate, and a failure of leadership," and called for negotiations between Republicans and Democrats.

"In the face of surging cases and death due to the President's failure to lead, the Republican proposal offers only a paltry sum compared to the needs in this country to support increased testing, contact tracing and funding for vaccine production and distribution," Leahy said.