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                                                               March 27, 2020  



The largest fiscal relief measure in U.S. history, together with two previous spending bills responding to Covid-19, is the "equivalent of over one-tenth the size of the U.S. economy," according to CQ. Given the widespread human and economic toll, with more than 1,000 deaths to date and record weekly jobless claims, the money in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is targeted at combating the pandemic and its impact. See a summary and the full bill.

Lewis-Burke Associates reports: "Most of the spending is going to support unemployment benefits, support for small businesses, emergency aid for hospitals, loans for affected industries, and disaster aid funds for states and local governments, among other efforts. The CARES Act also supports aid for institutions of higher education and more than $300 billion for federal funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Department of Defense, among others."

Here is a breakdown by Lewis-Burke of how funding will be allocated:

  • Of the higher education-specific emergency fund, over $12 billion would be allocated to institutions based on a formula weighted toward institutional share of full-time Pell students.  At least 50 percent of those grants would have to be used by institutions for emergency grants for students.  Nearly $1.3 billion would be specifically available for minority-serving institutions and specific grants for institutions with demonstrated unmet need due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The bill provides an additional $945.4 million in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research on COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccine development, and underlying risk factors.  When combined with the NIH funding provided in the first COVID-19 emergency supplemental package, this brings total new funding at NIH for COVID-19 related research activity to $1.78 billion.
  • Within NIH, the $945.4 million includes $706 million for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID); $103.4 million for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); $60 million for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB); $36 million for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS); $10 million for the National Library of Medicine (NLM); and $30 million for the Office of the Director (OD).
  • The package would provide $75 million for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research and Related Activities account “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” This funding, according to the summary, is intended for research at molecular, cellular, physiological and ecological levels to better understand coronavirus genetics, modes of action, transmission, virulence and population dynamics. The bill would additionally provide $1 million for NSF operations and agency functions to handle disruptions from the pandemic. [Much of the money is expected to flow through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program. ScienceInsider reports that a dozen investigators to date who have received RAPID awards relating to COVID-19.]
  • The bill would provide $6 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Scientific and Technical Research and Services account to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, by supporting continuity of operations, including measurement science to support viral testing and biomanufacturing.”  The bill would also provide $50 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to “assist manufacturers to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” and $10 million for Manufacturing USA to “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including to support development and manufacturing of medical counter measures and biomedical equipment and supplies.”
  • At the Pentagon, funding of $3.8 billion is included for the Defense Health Agency, of which $415 million is directed for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) activities to further develop vaccines and anti-viral pharmaceuticals and support laboratory operations.  The package also includes $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to allow DOD to invest in manufacturing capabilities that will increase the production rate of personal protective equipment and medical equipment in the U.S.
  • The package provides $99.5 million under the Department of Energy Office of Science to support research and development efforts related to COVID-19 at national laboratory scientific user facilities, including new equipment, technologies, and personnel support.  Funding support is for user facilities at Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories supported by both the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Consistent with a March 12 letter soliciting input from the research community on how to use DOE user facilities to help with the COVID-19 response, the primary area of interest is on the fundamental biology of COVID-19.
  • The CARES Act includes $60 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  This amount is $15 million less than initially included in the Senate’s version released last Friday.  The White House did not include NASA in its supplemental appropriations request.  The entire supplemental appropriation would be allocated to the Safety, Security, and Mission Services account, with intent “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.”

The 2009 stimulus injected money into science agencies more broadly, giving a one-time 30 percent boost to the National Science Foundation, for instance. (See graphic below.) 

See Lewis-Burke's complete policy update. Also see coverage by the American Institute of Physics' FYI Bulletin and the latest AAAS Policy Alert.


Federal obligations for R&D and R&D plant, current versus constant dollars: FYs 1980–2018

Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF). Click here for more detail.