Biden pushes Congress to boost public health, pandemic preparedness funding

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is asking Congress to bolster public health funding yet again — a call the White House says is necessary to prepare the country for the next pandemic and address public health crises that have been pushed amid Covid-19.

Biden called for a $1.6 billion funding increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a boost that represents almost a quarter of the agency’s current budget — to help increase core public health capacity at the federal and state level. The money could also be used to help build out public health data infrastructure and train new public health experts.

Biden also prioritized pandemic preparedness efforts, as he proposed $905 million to buy new medical supplies for the nation’s stockpile and increase organizational capacity at the Food and Drug Administration. That’s in addition to the $30 billion Biden proposed in the first phase of his infrastructure plan for biopreparedness efforts.

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“We want to use every lever at our disposal to address the challenges we face,” a Biden administration official said Friday on a call with reporters.

Lawmakers rarely hew closely to the White House’s requests, but the document illustrates the administration’s values and priorities for the congressional spending process.

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And at least some of it is likely to move forward. Fleshing out public health infrastructure has also been a priority for Senate health committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Murray and her Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), are also planning to work on pandemic preparedness legislation this year.

While the pandemic has consumed the public health world for more than a year, other crises have gotten worse, including the opioid epidemic. Accelerating drug overdoses could soon, for the first time, claim 100,000 U.S. lives in a single year.

Biden is proposing $10.7 billion for research, prevention, treatment, and recovery support services related to the opioid crisis, a 57% bump from last year’s levels. The opioid crisis has proved to be an ongoing political headache for the administration as well, as several Democratic senators threatened to vote against acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock if she were tapped for the top job, over concerns about her handling of the epidemic.

Other public health priorities Biden highlighted in his budgetary wishlist include more than doubling funding for community mental health services, improving health equity and data collection on race and ethnicity, resources to lower maternal mortality rates, and funds to expand access to treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

The release on Friday was a partial request. A full budget is expected in late spring.

Source: STAT