President signs spending bill boosting funding for global health
On February 15, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan spending bill—averting another partial government shutdown and ensuring full-year funding for the government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2019. The move followed several days of speculation about whether discord between Congress and the President on funding for a border wall would imperil the spending measure passed by Congress to fund the remaining one-quarter of the federal government.
The months-long saga ended with some great news for global health and research and development (R&D)—a roughly US$150 million funding increase for global health programs in the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill, as well as a significant boost to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Agriculture bill included in the package.
The bill included some welcome increases to global health accounts which have been flat-funded for five years running, including a $50 million (1.16 percent) increase to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and a $2.5 million (2.5 percent) increase to the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Neglected Tropical Disease Program compared to FY 2018. Nutrition saw a $20 million (16 percent) increase and Maternal and Child Health got a $5.5 million (0.66 percent) boost. But perhaps the most notable win in the bill was a long-sought increase to USAID’s tuberculosis (TB) program. After TB was in the spotlight at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in September, the United States backed up its pledge of additional support for the global fight against TB by including a $41 million (15.71 percent) increase to the program in the final spending package for FY 2019—the largest increase to the program in more than five years. All other global health accounts were level-funded compared to FY 2018, resulting in an overall increase of 3.23 percent for USAID Global Health—a stark difference from the 36 percent cut proposed in the President’s budget.
While most accounts of relevance to global health R&D within the Department of Health and Human Services were funded for the entire fiscal year in a spending package passed in September, the FDA was one agency whose funding was still in limbo. The FDA’s unique funding structure—divided between budget authority, or discretionary funding (appropriated by Congress), and fees (paid by FDA users) —shielded the agency from some of the worst impacts of the partial government shutdown in December and January as it drew down on user fees to continue most operations. But the final FY 2019 funding package included a welcome $460 million (9 percent) increase for the agency, including a $269 million (9 percent) increase in budget authority.
As the FY 2019 appropriations process lurched across the finish line, advocates were already gearing up for another budget battle for FY 2020. Check back for regular updates as appropriations hearings begin and GHTC continues monitoring the prospects for global health R&D accounts in the coming year.
For reference, the text of the Conference Report to accompany H.J. Res. 31, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, is available here, the text of the Joint Explanatory Statement is here (with the Global Health Program breakdown on page 454 of the PDF), and a division-by-division summary is available here.