Congress Passes, President Signs a Continuing Resolution that Funds the Government in FY2021 Through December 11

On September 30, the Senate approved a Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Continuing Resolution (CR) that keeps the government funded through December 11. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives on September 22, was immediately sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature. The CR funds agencies at their FY2020 levels, unless it identifies specific “anomalies” to fund. Although the CR did not provide any additional research relief funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does extend availability of funding for NIH multi-year grants that were available for obligation through FY2015 and were set to expire on September 30, 2020.    

The CR was necessary to avoid a government shutdown because none of the regular FY2021 appropriations bills was signed into law before the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1. The House of Representatives has passed 10 of its bills as part of two ‘minibus’ appropriations bills, but the Senate has yet to act on any of its companion bills.

While NAEVR issued a statement of appreciation to Congress and the Administration for avoiding a government shutdown, it urged Congress to finalize FY2021 appropriations with funding to build the   NIH/NEI base—as had been done in the past five appropriations cycles—and to provide emergency funding for COVID-19 related activities, including NIH grantee relief to assist with resumption of pre-pandemic research activities.  

As part of AEVR’s Sixth Annual Emerging Vision Scientists (EVS) Day on Capitol Hill the previous week, the 22 researchers participating in this year’s Advocacy Day—which was conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic—described to their Congressional delegations how delayed appropriations are detrimental to research in limiting new programs or initiatives, delaying grant awards, and potentially requiring investigators to seek private “bridge” funding to continue  research. The 22 EVSs also participated in a 30-minute discussion entitled Impact of COVID-19 Lab Closures on the Next Generation of Vision Scientists which addressed patient engagement, animal colonies and cell cultures, collaborations, training, and overall impact on career pathway.