U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter today with a bipartisan group of Senators to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the formula used to distribute federal funding to states for COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts, which leaves smaller states at a distinct disadvantage. The Senators requested that the CDC use available discretionary funds to bolster funding for states like New Hampshire, which are receiving significantly fewer dollars under the revised allocation method for these grants relative to what the states would have received under traditional approach to allocations. The letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Ben Schatz (D-HI).
In their letter, the Senators explain that the emergency COVID-19 relief signed into law last month directed HHS to distribute $4.5 billion in grants to support state, local, Territorial and Tribal-based COVID-19 vaccination efforts. This law also directed HHS to distribute $22.4 billion in grants to these regions to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and virus mitigation efforts. In both instances, Congress directed HHS to allocate funding to states, localities and territories according to the formula that applied to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement in fiscal year 2020 in determining the grant funding levels that each state should receive. Unfortunately, Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 PHEP funding awards included non-formula components, and HHS and the CDC based the supplemental allocations solely on the population component of the formula. This modification disproportionately impacts smaller and more rural states.
The Senators wrote, “We understand that HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strictly applied the population-based formula in determining allocations, and we acknowledge the importance of ensuring that high-risk and underserved communities have the resources necessary to get people vaccinated. However, if HHS and CDC do not act to provide additional resources to support smaller states that were shortchanged by this round of grant funding, our communities will not be equipped to meet the challenge of vaccine administration during this deadly pandemic. For these reasons, we strongly encourage CDC to utilize additional discretionary funding at its disposal to provide more funding to our small states.”
The Senators closed their letter with a request for CDC to compensate states that were shortchanged by tapping into a separate allocation of $4.25 billion that was provided by Congress to use on discretionary activities to support COVID-19 vaccination, and to utilize available funds from previous COVID-19 relief appropriations to provide supplemental testing and contact tracing grants to states that were shortchanged.
The letter can be read in full here.
Senators Shaheen and Hassan pushed for additional funding for vaccine distribution in the latest COVID-19 relief package, which includes $69 billion for vaccines, testing and tracing, community health and health care provider support. Last May, Senator Hassan emphasized the importance of planning early for the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines during a Senate HELP Committee hearing. Additionally, Senators Shaheen and Hassan pressed the Trump administration on reports stating that earlier last year, the administration declined to purchase additional doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine when given the opportunity. Earlier this month, Shaheen and Hassan urged the Trump administration to immediately fix the significant failures of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.