On Monday, December 21, the House and Senate Appropriators came to an agreement regarding the fiscal year (FY) 2021 federal budget. Congress released the omnibus appropriations package legislative text and provided a summary of the FY 2021 federal budget.
Congress increased funding for many environmental health initiatives including food safety, climate change, vector control, and lead hazards.
Below are highlighted environmental health programs from the budgets for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness (CDC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR).
FDA Funding: $3.2 billion, which is an increase of $42.25 million above the FY 2020 enacted level). Total funding for FDA, including user fees, is $5.97 billion.
FDA is looking at $42.25 million in new funding with $15.25 million apportioned for food safety. Within this total, Congress provided increases to food safety activities including support for emerging technologies to monitor food safety, support for the development of a framework for regulating cannabidiol (CBD) products, continued support for faster responses to foodborne illness outbreaks, and support to inspect foreign food products. Some of the food safety numbers in the FDA budget include:
- $1 million for expanded detection and removal of contaminated food from the marketplace.
- $5 million to regulate cannabis and cannabis derivatives in FDA-regulated products including dietary supplements and when used in unapproved food and feed alternatives.
- $1 million for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System.
CDC Funding: $7.84 billion, which is an increase of $125 million above the FY 2020 enacted level. The FY 2021 budget includes:
- $56 million, an increase of $5 million, for public health workforce and career development.
- Support for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Congress encourages CDC to fund childhood obesity research, prevention, and treatment programs in non-NHANES represented states and their native and underserved populations.
- Support for Public Health Data Modernization. Congress continues funding for the foundational investments necessary to upgrade the nation's public health data infrastructure.
- $361 million, an increase of $7.5 million, to strengthen epidemiologic and laboratory capacity, and includes $50 million to support modernization of public health data surveillance and analytics at CDC and state and local health departments.
- CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID): $648 million, which is an increase of $12.5 million over the FY 2020 enacted level. Congress encourages CDC to leverage existing partnerships and infrastructure when building capacity in wastewater surveillance.
- NCEZID’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases: $42.6 million, a decrease of $10 million from the FY 2020 enacted levels.
- NCEZID’s Emerging Infectious Diseases: $193 million.
- NCEZID's Food Safety: $65 million, an increase of $2 million to help address critical unmet needs.
- NCEZID's Quarantine Program: $42.7 million.
- NCEZID’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity: $440 million.
- CDC National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH): $222.85 million
- NCEH Laboratory: $67.75 million.
- NCEH Env Health: $47.6 million.
- Safe Water Program: $8.6 million.
- Climate and Health: $10 million.
- NCEH Tracking: $34 million.
- NCEH Childhood Lead: $34 million. Congress increased funding in FY 2021.
- NCEH Lead Registry: $4.5 million. Congress included funding for the continuation of the Flint, Michigan, Lead Exposure Registry.
- NCEH Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Training: $1 million. Congress included $1 million for grants to develop voluntary training courses for health professionals to help understand the potential health impact of PFAS exposure and best practices for treatment.
The budget also includes $8.75 billion for CDC to support federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal public health agencies to distribute, administer, monitor, and track coronavirus vaccination to ensure broad-based distribution, access, and vaccine coverage, including:
- $4.5 billion for state, local, territorial, and tribal public health departments.
- $300 million for a targeted effort to distribute and administer vaccines to high-risk and underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities.
U.S. EPA Funding: $9.24 billion. The bill provides a total of $9.24 billion for U.S. EPA, an increase of$180 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $2.53 billion above the president’s budget request.
Of this amount, the bill includes:
- $3.49 billion for U.S. EPA’s core science and environmental program work, an increase of $111 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $724 million above the president’s budget request. Within these amounts, the bill includes:
- $566 million for environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement activities and grants, a $14 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level and $41 million above the president’s budget request.
- $53 million in funding at U.S. EPA and partner agencies for scientific and regulatory work and cleanup assistance for PFAS needed to establish a drinking water standard and cleanup standards. This level of funding is $10 million above the FY 2020 enacted level.
- $4.31 billion for State and Tribal Assistance Grants, a $68 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level and $1.47 billion above the president’s budget request. Within this amount, the bill includes:
- $2.77 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, equal to the FY 2020 enacted level.
- $40 million for Combined Sewer Overflow Grants, a $12 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level.
- $91 million for brownfields cleanups, a $2 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level.
- $90 million for Diesel Emissions Reductions Grants, a $3 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level.
- $1.21 billion for Superfund, a $21 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level and $127 million above the president’s budget request.
- $12.5 million for environmental justice activities, a $2.3 million increase above the FY 2020 enacted level and greater than a four-fold increase above the president’s budget request.
National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Funding: $345 million. Funding for NIOSH includes:
- Firefighter Cancer Registry. Congress acknowledges that this voluntary, anonymous registry system will enable researchers to better understand why firefighters are at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer and identify ways to mitigate firefighters' risk of cancer through best practices and advanced equipment.
PHPR Funding: $842 million. Funding for PHPR includes:
- $695 million for Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreements.
- $139 million for CDC Preparedness.
- $8.2 million for the Academic Centers for Public Health Preparedness. Congress continues to support CDC's collaboration with academic centers and encourages CDC to explore additional opportunities to improve the coordination of partnerships to implement emerging disease surveillance and research to respond to emerging and reemerging disease threats.
- PHEP Cooperative Agreement. Congress includes an increase and requests a state distribution table in the FY 2022 congressional justification, which should also include how funding is being allocated to local health departments and how states are determining these allocations.
Doug Farquhar is the director of Government Affairs at the National Environmental Health Association in Denver, Colorado.