Legislation Introduced to Provide COVID-19 Relief to Research Community

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have introduced bipartisan legislation to provide emergency relief appropriations for federal science agencies to support the research community during the ongoing public health crisis.

On June 24, 2020, the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act (H.R. 7308) was introduced by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Fred Upton (R-MI), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) in the U.S. House of Representatives.  And on July 23, 2020, a companion measure to the RISE Act was introduced in the Senate by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

The bill would authorize approximately $26 billion in supplemental funding for federal research agencies to be awarded to research universities, independent institutions, and national laboratories to address the COVID-19 related disruption to federally funded research. The relief funding would be allocated to federal departments and agencies as follows:

  • $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health
  • $3 billion for the National Science Foundation
  • $2 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • $5 billion for the Department of Energy, of which $3 billion would be available for the Office of Science
  • $300 million for the U.S. Geological Survey within Department of the Interior
  • $3 billion for the Department of Defense
  • $650 million for the Department of Commerce, of which $350 million would be directed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and $300 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • $380 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • $200 million for the Department of Education
  • $200 million for the Environmental Protection Agency

The measure would also provide temporary regulatory flexibility until universities and nonprofit research institutes can safely reopen federally-funded research laboratories, allowing graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, technical support staff, and other research personnel to continue to receive salaries while research activities have been disrupted.  According to Representative DeGette, these funds could enable researchers “to complete work that was disrupted by COVID-19, or extend the training or employment of researchers on an existing research project for up to two years because of the disruption of the job market.”

“These researchers are essential to our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness,” stated the lawmakers.  “Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world and help us better respond to future pandemics.”

Provisions included in the RISE Act are consistent with recommendations made earlier this year by higher education and scientific societies and coalitions, including the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Council on Education.  These provisions were also endorsed by 181 Representatives and 33 Senators. 

NSC Alliance is among more than 300 higher education, research, industry groups, and associations that have endorsed H.R. 7308 so far.