Chair DeLauro Statement at the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Hearing

2021-05-26 10:10

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

I am pleased to have Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leadership back before the Subcommittee to discuss the current state of the pandemic and our nation’s response, and the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2022 for CDC.

On February 23rd, this subcommittee held a roundtable session with CDC focused on the COVID-19 response, and a day later we held a hearing focused on public health infrastructure.

Since that roundtable and hearing in February, our nation’s response to COVID-19 has made significant advancements. Vaccines are now widely available. One vaccine is now approved for those aged 12 and above. Nearly 300 million vaccine doses have been administered, including nearly 4 million in my home state of Connecticut. Last week we heard from the Yale New Haven health system that they are now treating a “staggeringly small” number of COVID patients. This is a tremendous accomplishment. Our public health workers are finally able to sleep again. Our families are finally breathing a sigh of relief. And our workforce and economy are beginning to rebound.

But the messages from the public health infrastructure hearing in February were clear. COVID-19 exposed numerous realities in our nation, including that our nation’s public health infrastructure is extremely fragile. Many health departments are still using fax machines, or doing data entry by hand. Information about patients’ names, sex, or pregnancy status are not being shared across departments. Health workers are leaving the field in droves, while others need workforce development. And our research labs are struggling to find the equipment, capacity, and trained workforce they need.

But now communities are realizing that our public health partners are essential: not only for infectious diseases, but for health promotion and protection to keep our communities healthy and functioning. Our nation’s public health system can no longer only get attention during a crisis. We must invest in the public health workforce, laboratories, and data modernization not just to respond to the pandemic, but every year.

After this pandemic is over, our public health agencies cannot go back to what they were. We need to meet this moment and build the public health architecture to move our public health partners and workforce forward.

Today’s hearing is the next step in turning those recommendations into action.

While we will not receive the details of the President’s Budget until later this week, we know from the Budget Blueprint that the administration is requesting $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over 2021 enacted for the CDC. The administration has described this request as “the largest increase in budget authority for CDC in nearly two decades.” But while this is a very welcome increase, I think in general we need to consider increasing investments for the CDC not just this year but every year.

As I have said many times, one-time investments do not ensure CDC and our public health departments are ready to address chronic challenges. And we need to ensure our public health infrastructure is ready to address the challenges or pandemics of the future. This COVID-19 pandemic has only further underscored the need to view public health infrastructure as a fundamental service, not just something we fund when the needs arise. The tide has turned, we need to start providing funding to address core public health activities.

While I look forward to receiving the detailed request for CDC, the programs highlighted to receive increases in the summary released in April are very welcome—maternal mortality prevention, firearm injury and mortality prevention research, climate and health, social determinants of health, and the establishment of a new community-based violence intervention program.

In terms of gun violence research, I am particularly interested in getting a progress report. I know it may be too early, but I hope that you can let us know a little more about the status of gun violence research and what we have learned. In terms of maternal mortality prevention, I also want to say that I am also pleased to see increased investments in research on maternal health to address the crisis of maternal mortality in the U.S. We absolutely need to make this a nationwide effort. Not one more mother should die just for participating in the miracle of birth.

I also think the increased funding for research on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes and improving maternal mental health is particularly crucial.

I might add, that two weeks ago, the CDC made a significant update to its guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in most situations. Dr. Walensky committed to leading the CDC with science and I know that we all have a lot of questions about the current scientific evidence that led to this updated guidance and the subsequent guidance that we are all awaiting to be updated from CDC.

I know that many people I have spoken to are still uncomfortable with this change and are not confident that being around people who are unmasked is safe. There is still a lot of uncertainty about the nuances that may be implied in such guidance. Throughout this pandemic CDC has been in the unenviable position of making black and white recommendations in a world of grey areas. So, I think it will be helpful to drill down on what this guidance means and how we can continue to restore public confidence in such guidelines. That is why I greatly look forward to today’s discussion. 

117th Congress