Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
By a vote of 30-22, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2021 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill on Monday. The bill’s report language confirmed the $2 million increase for STD programs “in recognition that the number of combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia have reached an all-time high in the US.” The Committee also allocated a $10 million increase for the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative and a $2 million increase for the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH). Other sections of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) received level funding.
On Wednesday, The Trump Administration ordered hospitals begin reporting COVID-19 data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), bypassing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Top HHS officials claim having hospitals report directly to HHS will streamline the data collection process and reduce the CDC’s burden. However, other members of the public health community are concerned this change will result in a lack of transparency and inaccurate public health data related to COVID 19 testing, case numbers, and fatalities.
In a joint letter sent on Tuesday to HHS Secretary Azar, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Senator Elizabeth Warren requested information on the Trump Administration’s response to the racial disparities in COVID-19 treatment and outcomes. COVID cases and deaths are disproportionally higher in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, highlighting “that racism, discrimination, and bias are public health problems that the federal government must prioritize.” Representative Pressley and Senator Warren also inquired about the status of several HHS health equity publications that were last updated during the Obama Administration. Under the Affordable Care Act, these reports must be provided to Congress.
After ongoing talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to release Senate Republican’s fourth COVID-19 stimulus package next week. The bill is expected to include unemployment benefits, state and local aid, liability protections for businesses, and a second payment of $1,200 for individuals making under $45,000 and couples making $85,000-$90,000. Senator Chuck Schumer is also expected to release Senate Democrat’s bill next week.