New round of funding announced by HHS, financial relief for clinical laboratories?
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021, several pieces of legislation now provide funding specifically for COVID-19 testing and monitoring. The latest is the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act signed into law Dec. 27, 2020. This legislation provides another $900 billion to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)in early January that over $22 billion of these COVID-19 relief funds would be used to promote COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.
A smaller share of these funds will be used to “support a range of COVID-19 vaccination activities across jurisdictions,” according to a statement by HHS. About $3 billion of this announced funding will be allocated to support vaccine distribution.
Federal Funding Support for COVID-19 Testing and Monitoring
A much larger share of these funds—over $19 billion—will be used to support COVID-19 testing and other monitoring activities. “More than $19 billion will be allocated to jurisdictions through the existing [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) cooperative agreement,” according to a statement issued by HHS. “These awards will support testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and mitigation to monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19. Award recipients will include 64 jurisdictions including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five major cities, and U.S. territories/islands. Consistent with Congressional direction, funds will be allocated by a population-based formula.”
Said HHS Secretary Alex Azar: “On top of the substantial support we’ve already provided, the funding bill signed by President Trump in December has billions of dollars in new funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. We’re making these billions in new funds available to states as quickly as possible to support our combined efforts to end the pandemic.”
State-level Allocations for COVID-19 Relief Funding Announced
In addition to announcing this new funding for COVID-19 testing and monitoring, HHS also released aof the amount of funds being assigned to each state or other jurisdiction.
“This funding is another timely investment that will strengthen our nation’s efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic in America,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD. “Particularly now, it is crucial that states and communities have the resources they need to conduct testing, and to distribute and administer safe, high-quality COVID-19 vaccines safely and equitably.”
It is still unclear what effect the HHS announcement will have for clinical laboratories that are struggling with sometimes overwhelming testing volumes and supply chain shortages. The initial announcement from HHS seems to indicate that each state or jurisdiction will ultimately be responsible for how funds will be distributed and applied. Clinical laboratory leaders may find it beneficial in their specific situations to collaborate with the jurisdictions receiving funds and to provide input on the fund allocation.
These new funds also come at a time when there is an increased emphasis on COVID-19 antigen testing, at-home testing, and over-the-counter tests. It remains unclear to what degree clinical laboratories will benefit from this new round of funding, but it seems apparent that they are likely to see some benefit as the distribution of these funds begins.
By exploring marketing methods that are outside the box, clinical laboratories may find new ways of offering their services during this pandemic.
—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT