On February 24, 2020, the White House sent congress a request for $2.5 billion to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In a few short weeks, this would grow to trillions!
Members from both political parties in the House and the Senate viewed this request as entirely inadequate. After successful bipartisan negotiations, the final CPRA emerged with an estimated cost of $8.3 billion. As indicated above, subsequent COVID-19 legislation would have much higher price tags.
The CPRA was largely directed at funding research and development for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, with about $6.7 billion to be used domestically and about $1.5 billion internationally. A detailed account of these appropriations is provided below.
|Department||Amount ($)||Expenditure Period||Purpose|
|Health & Human Services||3.4 billion||Through 2024||COVID-19 R&D for Vaccines and Therapeutics|
|300 million||Through 2024||Purchase of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics|
|100 million||2020||Grants under the Health Centers Program|
|1.9 billion||Through 2022||Center for Disease Control for COVID-19 containment. Includes $950 million state and local health organizations, $300 million for the Infectious Disease Rapid Response reserve Fund and $40 million tribal health organizations|
|836 million||Through 2024||To National Institute of Health and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for COVID-19 R&D|
|61 million||Until expended||Food and Drug Administration COVID-19 preparedness and response|
|500 million||Not specified||Waiver to greatly expand the availability of Telehealth Services under Medicare|
|300 million||2022||Center for Disease Control global COVID-19 detection and response|
|Small Business Administration||20 million||Until Expended||Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program|
|USAID||435 million||2022||Global Health Programs|
|300 million||Until expended||International Disaster Assistance|
|250 million||2022||Economic Support Fund|
|State Department||264 million||2022||Consular operations, evacuation expenses and emergency preparedness|
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, The U.S. Response to Coronavirus: Summary of the Coronavirus Response and Preparedness Supplemental Appropriations Act, March 11, 2020
This Looks Bad and We Better Do Something About It
By the time this legislation became law on March 6, 2020, there were over 100,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide with 233 cases in the USA and 14 deaths. This initial legislative response was aimed squarely at the health crisis itself with the vast bulk of the new appropriations going to the Department of Health and Human Services for the development of vaccines, cures and emergency preparedness.
To the extent this legislation represents a knee jerk reaction by our elected representatives, it seems to be the right knee jerk reaction.
As outlined above, this money was spread around a large number of divisions and organizations, including almost $1 billion for state and local health organizations and $1.5 billion internationally. With several billion allocated to multiple federal entities for the development of vaccines and cures, one hopes there is effective coordination and planning among the groups.
The CPRA passed the House with a bipartisan 451-2 vote, with the Nay votes coming from Republicans in Colorado and Arizona. In the Senate, the vote was 96-1, with Rand Paul of Kentucky the sole Nay vote. Bernie Sanders (and Elizabeth Warren) both missed the vote on the presidential campaign trail.
With the exception of the $20 million appropriation to the Small Business Administration, nothing in the CPRA addressed the potential economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. By March 6, when CPRA became law, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had dropped 12% from its February 18 high. The stock market continued to drop for the next 17 days, falling a total of 33.6% by March 23, 2020.
The next major legislative response, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, was put together during the stock market crash. Unlike the first Act, it is very much focused on the economy. It was also a lot bigger in term of cost: £192 billion. As the month of March progressed, the scale, impact and cost of COVID-19 was becoming more and more apparent to our elected representatives.
The next article in The Informed Vermonter will cover the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.