House Appropriations Committee to Mark Up FY2021 LHHS Spending Bill with Modest Appropriated NIH/NEI Increases Plus Emergency Funding for Grantee Relief

Update: On July 13,  the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2021 Labor-HHS bill by a vote of 30-22.

On July 13, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up its Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending bill, which had been approved by the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee on July 7. The FY2021 bill includes $196.5 billion in overall funding, an increase of $2.4 billion above the FY2020 enacted level and $20.8 billion above the President’s FY2021 budget request. The bill also provides $24.425 billion in emergency funding to support state and local public health departments, public health laboratories, and global health activities.   

Within the $96.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (a $1.5 billion increase over enacted FY2020), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funded at $47 billion, an increase of $5.5 billion above the FY2020 enacted level. Of the total amount appropriated, $42 billion is in annual appropriations (an increase of $500 million above FY2020 due to restrictive Subcommittee funding allocations imposed by the pre-pandemic spending caps) and the other $5 billion of the increase is in Title VI Emergency Funding (not subject to spending caps).  Of the $5 billion, $2.5 billion is distributed across NIH’s Institutes and centers (I/Cs) proportionate to funding. Of the remaining $2.5 billion in emergency funding, $225 million is under Buildings and Facilities and $2.275 billion is under the Office of the Director for further distribution. The emergency supplemental funding is available for use through FY2025.

The bill’s Title VI Emergency Funding Report Language for NIH states that the $5 billion in funds will provide in part:

“…support for current grantees to cover the shutdown costs, startup costs, and other costs related to delays in research in 2020. In 2020, most research laboratories ceased to operate out of safety concerns. Institutions incurred the costs of these shutdowns and will incur the cost of reopening these labs when doing so is safe and feasible. The resulting delays in ongoing research will also have a financial impact on research institutions. The emergency funds provided to NIH in this bill will help research institutions to address this financial burden and return to conducting lifesaving research as quickly and safely as possible.”

Of the $500 million NIH appropriation increase, the National Eye Institute (NEI) receives $7.09 million, or a 0.8 percent increase over FY2020 enacted of $824.1 million, resulting in an FY2021 funding level of $831.18 million. However, the NEI also receives $53.03 million in Title VI Emergency Funding for a total of $60.12 million or 7.3 percent increase over enacted FY2020. In that regard, the Committee statement acknowledges that “the bill increases funding for each Institute and Center by no less than 7 percent to support a wide range of critical research on diseases and conditions that affect individuals and families all over the world.”      

Within the NEI Report Language, the Committee:

  • Encourages NEI to consider establishing an ocular tissue program to achieve cost savings and facilitate critical ocular research utilizing tissue provided by non-profit organizations to academic and other not-for-profit research entities.
  • Continues to encourage NEI to pursue collaboration with stakeholders on cross-cutting research opportunities that affect all forms of dystonia, including blepharospasm.
  • Encourages NEI to work with other Institutes and Centers, other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, and stakeholder organizations to examine novel methods to fund translational research and bridge the valley of death (reference to the Eye Bond legislation).
  • Encourages NIH to fund research that will stem the growth of macular degeneration and request an update on current research and future initiatives in the FY2022 Congressional Justification.
  • Recognizes NEI’s research to advance the understanding of the causes of visual impairment and blindness and potential treatment s and encourages NEI to expand these research activities.

Although this Report Language does not reflect a legislative mandate, the Committee will follow up on NIH/NEI activities regarding these focused efforts.  

In commenting on the FY2021 House LHHS bill, NAEVR echoes the statement released by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, to which it belongs, thanking the Committee for the appropriation despite the restrictive funding cap and for the emergency funding that allows NIH to use a portion to offset COVID-19 research disruptions.

At this time, the Senate is not expected to mark up its FY2021 spending bills until after the August recess, increasing the likelihood of a Continuing Resolution to fund the government when FY2021 begins on October 1, 2020.