The House of Representatives passed a massive relief bill on February 27 that aims to bring financial support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319, committee report) includes direct payments to individuals, expansion of unemployment assistance, and an increase to the national minimum wage, among many other provisions. It also includes several notable provisions of interest to the science community, including $39.9 billion in funding for colleges and universities, with half to be used for student aid, as laid out in the CARES Act (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The bill also includes $100 million for the Institute of Education Sciences for research related to addressing learning loss caused by the coronavirus among K-12 students.
In addition, the National Science Foundation would receive $600 million “to fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” While not included in the original bill text, this funding was added as part of the manager’s amendment that was passed on the House floor. This funding, if enacted, could only be used for research about the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill does not provide any any relief for scientists whose research on other topics has been disrupted. The bipartisan RISE Act (see previous coverage), should it become law, would provide NSF with $3 billion to support non-COVID-related research impacted by the pandemic.
Senate leadership is now working on its own version of the legislation, which is expected to be voted on the coming days. While some of the larger provisions may change, such as the minimum wage increase, the research and higher education relief funding discussed above is expected to be maintained in the Senate bill. COSSA will continue to report on the progress of this legislation as it nears passage.