WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced the Senate passage of a bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus emergency funding bill, which will provide $8.3 billion in new funding to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In the face of this public health crisis, we need good information, good science, and the right tools in the right hands to limit the virus’s spread and keep people safe,” said Merkley. “It’s important that members of Congress of both parties stepped in to ensure that we have the equipment, tests, and other resources we need in our communities and public health agencies. I’m going to keep fighting to make sure we’re doing everything we can to contain and fight the spread of this virus.”
“Keeping Oregonians healthy and safe, especially the most vulnerable in our state, is our number one priority. This emergency funding will help make sure Oregon and states around the country treat that priority with the urgency required by providing the resources they need to tackle any threat posed by COVID-19,” Wyden said. “I am especially pleased that I was able to include a provision that would boost access to telehealth in Medicare during this emergency. This will especially give seniors greater access to their health care providers without leaving home.”
Unlike President Trump’s proposal, which included only $1.25 billion in new funding, the bill is a robust package to fully support the federal, state, and local response to the coronavirus public health crisis. It includes more than $3 billion for the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; more than $2 billion to help federal, state, local, and tribal governments prevent, prepare, and respond to the crisis; and nearly $1 billion to invest in healthcare preparedness, purchase critical pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and support community health centers. Importantly, this bill includes $300 million to ensure that vaccines developed with the support of federal dollars remain affordable to those most in need.
Senator Merkley, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), worked with his counterparts to write Title I of the bill, providing $61 million in funding for the FDA. These funds will support vaccine development; medical countermeasures to diagnose, prevent, and protect the public; address shortages of medical supplies; and tackle counterfeit or misbranded products that claim to help protect individuals from illness, among other critical tasks.
Senator Wyden, who serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, worked to secure a provision in the emergency funding bill that let certain telehealth restrictions in Medicare be waived during the coronavirus public health emergency. He is also leading efforts to make sure the most vulnerable, in particular Oregon’s seniors and those in nursing homes, are safe and that those responsible for their care are prepared to handle further spread of COVID-19.
Recognizing that diseases know no borders, the bipartisan bill in Congress also provides hundreds of millions of dollars to address the spread of the coronavirus abroad. It is a bipartisan, bicameral, emergency appropriations bill designed to address the threat of the novel coronavirus with a comprehensive approach.
Now that the bill has been passed by the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, it is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.