Senate Commerce Committee Approves RISE Act With $10 B in Research Relief Funding for the NIH

On September 16, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved by voice vote the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (S. 4286). The legislation, sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), would authorize $26 billion for relief funding to federal agencies that fund research activities that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On June 24 and in the House, Cong. Diana DeGette (D-CO) had introduced a companion RISE bill (H.R. 7308) which also authorizes $26 billion to support research affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including $10 billion for the NIH. That bill has been referred to multiple House committees with jurisdiction over science and research, but no actions have been taken to consider the legislation. NAEVR, along with 280 other organizations, endorsed the House RISE bill, and more than 180 bipartisan House Members sent a letter to leadership urging them to “support the American research enterprise and provide it with the additional funding it now desperately needs.”

In addition to the NIH, the bills would apply to other federal agencies with research activities, including the Departments of Energy, Education, Commerce, Defense and Agriculture, along with the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The bills authorize funds to provide supplemental funding for researchers and grants that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; provide funding for the increased construction costs of facilities and equipment that were delayed by the pandemic; and allow agencies to award new grants to study the behavioral, social, or economic effects of COVID-19, including the responses to the disease and the effectiveness of the responses. Recipients of the funds would have two years to spend the money.

Funds for the NIH would support NIH-funded trainees and early-stage investigators, as well as established investigators whose work was interrupted by the pandemic. Funding could be used to extend the training and employment of graduate students whose career was interrupted by the pandemic and for the purchase of animals and lab supplies which were originally purchased before the pandemic and now need to be replaced.

While each the House and Senate bill authorizes funding, each the House and Senate Appropriations Committee would need to pass legislation to appropriate funds—or incorporate the funding levels into a final Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bill.