Frontline Blog

Critically Important Emergency Funding For COVID-19 Will Soon Flow to Local and State Jurisdictions

March 2020

Cities will soon receive funding to prepare for and respond to COVID-19 as a result of the $8.3 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act which Congress passed and the president signed this week.

“On behalf of our members, local health officials from 30 of the largest, most urban health departments in the country, I thank policymakers for acting quickly on this critical need,” said Chrissie Juliano, executive director, Big Cities Health Coalition. “The overwhelming support in both houses of Congress reflects bipartisan agreement that communities across the country need additional resources now to meet the demands of this evolving threat.”

Over the past six weeks, city and county health leaders have been carrying out activities that they have planned and trained for to keep their communities as healthy and safe as possible, doing so in the absence of full information and without any additional resources. Public health departments at all levels of government are used to doing more with less and don’t have extra staff or funding to handle an outbreak of this magnitude without an infusion of additional resources. This type of outbreak-related work – contact tracing, public education, and the like – is incredibly time- and resource-intensive work.

This bill lays out funding priorities that are critically important to the response happening now. Most important for BCHC members is the $950 million directed to localities and states for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tasked with making sure half of those dollars go out the door within 30 days. The bill also reimburses costs incurred since January 20.

“I laud Congress for including a requirement to get these funds to the agencies and people on the frontlines,” Juliano said. “We will have to be vigilant, however, with all of our local and state partners to ensure these dollars are used as they were intended and reach the community level as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Additional provisions in the legislation provide for over $1 billion for vaccine and test development and procurement, as well as reimbursing dollars that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services transferred from other accounts to fund their initial response.

 “Local governmental public health officials and their colleagues in the states, do incredible work behind the scenes to keep their communities healthy and safe” Juliano said. “The COVID-19 outbreak is bringing some of the work to light telling the story of the invisible local public servants who dedicate their careers to protecting their communities.”