Congress Passes, President Signs Bill with Final FY2021 Appropriations that Include NIH/NEI Funding Increases and Stimulus with NIH COVID-19 Research Funding

Late on December 21, both the House and Senate passed a massive spending bill Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) that includes $1.4 trillion in government funding that reflects all twelve of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bills and $900 billion in COVID-19 relief. The bill passed both chambers by a vote of 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate. Congress also passed a weeklong Continuing Resolution (CR) in H.R. 1520 to maintain current funding for the government at the FY2020 level through December 28 while Congress finalized logistics for the President to sign the bill. On December 27, the President signed the bill into law.  

Regarding FY2021 appropriations, H.R. 133 includes $197 billion in programmatic funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, an increase of $2.8 billion over the FY2020 enacted level and $19.2 billion over the President’s 2021 budget request. The LHHS-Education portion provides a program level of $42.934 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $1.250 billion or 3 percent increase over the comparable FY2020 level. (For reference, the Biomedical Research Development Price Index [BRDPI] is projected at 2.4% in FY2021.) This funding level includes the full $404 million provided to the NIH through the Innovation Account in the 21st Century Cures Act, and, as provided in FY2020, also includes a $225 million transfer to NIH for buildings and facilities from the Nonrecurring Expenses Fund.

The National Eye Institute (NEI) receives an $11.624 million or 1.4 percent increase over FY2020 enacted funding of $824.09 million for a total of $835.71 million. Although this increase is below the biomedical inflation rate of 2.4 percent, it appears that I/Cs without special initiatives received increases in that range.

In addition to the FY2021 funding, under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 portion of the bill, the package provides $1.250 billion in emergency funding for NIH “research and clinical trials related to long-term COVID-19 studies” ($1.150 billion) and for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program ($100 million), available through September 30, 2024. That language would appear not to include research relief funding to NIH grantees due to COVID-19 lab closures. 

NAEVR has issued a press release supporting the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research’s (to which it belongs) statement expressing appreciation that the bill includes some emergency funding for NIH and an overall FY2021 investment for NIH that keeps pace with inflation in light of difficult discretionary spending constraints.  In urging lawmakers to work quickly to provide additional emergency funding for the NIH in the new year, the statement also notes, “We look forward to working with lawmakers to secure ample discretionary spending allocations moving forward that allow for the needed investments in key national priorities, such as the NIH. If we are to fully realize the potential of medical discovery, we must ensure meaningful growth over biomedical inflation for the NIH in the next fiscal year and beyond.”