Congress Passes $1.5 Trillion FY 2022 Appropriations Measure, Pulls COVID Supplemental Funding from Bill

This week, the U.S. Congress passed a $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through Federal Fiscal Year 2022, which ends in September.

The final bill includes funding increases to public health agencies and programs under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including a $582 million increase for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, funding for some public health programs was lower than expected based on the levels that had been included in the versions of FY 2022 appropriations bills drafted in Senate and House subcommittees.

According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the omnibus bill establishes a new funding line for public health infrastructure and allocates $200 million for FY 2022, which was lower than anticipated. Other highlights from the omnibus measure include:

  • $715 million for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, a slight increase over the FY 2021 funding but less than the $1 billion requested by NACCHO
  • $100 million for the Data Modernization Initiative at CDC
  • $1 billion to establish the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H) which is yet to be authorized by Congress under the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • $550 million to expand broadband internet access in underserved areas, including rural areas.

In addition to setting FY 2022 funding levels, the omnibus measure also includes several policy changes:

  • Provides U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate synthetic nicotine products
  • An extension of Schedule I classification of fentanyl-like substances
  • The bill does not extend a policy that allowed schools to serve universal free meals during the pandemic, reverting to the Obama Administration-era nutrition standards that force schools to collect eligibility paperwork that was waived during the COVID-19 pandemic  

Of particular note, the FY 2022 omnibus measure initially included $15.6 billion to support the nation’s continued COVID-19 pandemic response. According to NACCHO, Congressional Republicans have voiced skepticism of new COVID-19 funds and pushed for any new funds to be offset. To address this concern, Congressional Democratic leaders included a provision to claw back certain unused COVID-19 funding from state governments. In turn, Democratic members of many of those states objected, causing the entire slate of COVID-19 funding to be stripped from the FY 2022 omnibus measure.

The House will vote next week on a standalone COVID-19 supplemental funding measure, with its passage expected. The standalone COVID-19 measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate, however, given that bipartisan support of the measure will be required for passage.

The $15.6 billion proposed in the FY 2022 omnibus measure was short of the $30 billion the Biden-Harris Administration has said it needs to sustain its COVID-19 response and prepare for future COVID-19 variants.

The full $1.5 trillion omnibus measure is available here. CHEAC will continue analyzing funding included in the FY 2022 omnibus measure, as well as the forthcoming standalone COVID-19 funding measure. We will keep Members apprised of any developments of interest and relevance to California local health departments.