NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The Federal economic stimulus package that awaits both Congress and newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama includes billions of dollars in new funding for the National Institutes of Health and other research agencies, as well as a major funding plan for a health information technology program.
The stimulus package, which currently is in the US House of Representatives, offers $3.5 billion to NIH, $460 million for renovation at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a total of $20 billion to back health information technology initiatives, and billions for other agencies that fund biomedical research and genomics, according to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, which was drafted to "prevent the loss of millions of jobs and get our economy moving," will be considered over the next two weeks, according to a statement from the office of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.).
In its current draft, the package seeks $1.5 billion to fund NIH research and $500 million to implement a repairs and improvement plan for NIH campuses. Another $1.5 billion in the bill would go through NIH to renovate university research facilities and “help them compete for biomedical research grants.”
The Agricultural Research Service at the US Department of Agriculture would receive $209 million for research facility maintenance, and $900 million would fund advanced biomedical R&D, pandemic flu, and cyber security protections at the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Investment in science through the stimulus bill will immediately create new jobs and prevent job losses for researchers, technicians, and thousands of others who provide equipment, supplies, and services to laboratories in all 50 states," explained Richard Marchase, who is president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
The bill was crafted with "strong coordination" between the House and the US Senate, as well as Obama and his economic advisors, according to a statement supporting the bill from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D – NY).
Representative Wally Herger (R – Calif.), who is a ranking member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, expressed concern on Friday about some of the health funding in the bill, but he did not single out NIH or research spending as problematic.
Herger fretted that the health-focused aspects of the package amounted to a "borrow and spend" approach and simply "throwing money at the problem," but the majority of his criticism was reserved for health care system subsidies.
Herger said that developing our IT health infrastructure "is an admirable goal and should be part of our long term health strategy," but he noted that he is "concerned about whether the legislation will include sufficient standards so that the equipment and software will be interoperable."
Rangel said on Saturday that the Ways and Means Committee will begin discussing the bill after it is formally introduced this week.