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COSSA’s Analysis of Enacted COVID-19 Supplemental Funding Legislation, FY 2020

Over the past month, Congress has passed three large stimulus bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, the three bills comprise the largest economic stimulus package in American history and touch nearly all aspects of American life, including scientific research, support for key economic sectors and small businesses, direct financial support to Americans, and boosts to social safety net programs. All three bills enacted in response to the crisis, so far, have been supplemental appropriations bills, meaning they provide funds to federal agencies and programs in addition to what has already been appropriated for the current fiscal year (FY 2020), which began on October 1, 2019. It remains to be seen how this infusion of funds will impact, if at all, appropriations for next fiscal year (FY 2021), beginning on October 1, 2020. Follow COSSA’s FY 2021 coverage here.

The House of Representatives and Senate are in recess until further notice. Still, Congress is expected to consider additional stimulus legislation in the months ahead. Read on for COSSA’s summary of the three bills that have been enacted so far.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

April’s Headlines Webchat to Feature Deep Dive on Social Science During the Coronavirus Crisis

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, March 12. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, including how the coronavirus pandemic has affected infrastructure and operations at science agencies, organizations, and universities. As always, COSSA staff will be standing by to answer your questions. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Census Bureau Temporarily Suspends 2020 Field Operations, In-Person Survey Interviews

The Census Bureau has announced further adjustments to its planned 2020 decennial census operations in response to the coronavirus epidemic (see previous coverage). On March 18, Census Director Steven Dillingham announced a two-week suspension of 2020 field operations. In addition, the Bureau’s two major facilities in Jeffersonville, IN, the National Processing Center and Paper Data Capture Center East, have dramatically reduced on-site staff to the minimum necessary to continue operations. These measures were further extended by an additional two weeks, through April 15, and could be extended even longer in accordance with public health guidelines. In addition, the Census Bureau has temporarily suspended in-person interviews for its ongoing surveys, including the American Community Survey. Where possible, field workers will call participants and seek to collect information by phone. This marks the first major interruption for some of these surveys in over 50 years of data collection.

At the same time, the Census Bureau is strongly encouraging all American households to respond to the 2020 Census online—both for convenience and to minimize in-person contact. The questionnaire can be filled out here—even households who have not received or lost their Census ID code can respond by clicking “if you do not have a Census ID, click here.” The Census Bureau has also published a response rate map, updated daily, that allows users to see the self-response rate in their state, city, or census tract.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

NSF Creates Resource Webpage for Information on COVID-19

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has established a resource webpage compiling relevant information about NSF activities addressing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Some of the resources available on the webpage include a FAQ about NSF awards, a document describing NSF’s implementation of an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directive, a Dear Colleague Letter inviting research proposals through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program, and a list of  NSF deadlines that have changed due to COVID-19. This resource page is frequently updated to include the most relevant and accurate information.

In addition, on March 30, leadership from the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) circulated a letter to the social and behavioral science community providing additional details on NSF’s COVID-19 resources and encouraging proposals from SBE fields.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 31), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

A Word from COSSA…

Dear Friends:

Our thoughts are with everyone feeling the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. As the world adjusts to a new—and hopefully temporary—way of life, lawmakers in Washington are scrambling to keep the economic and public health consequences from spiraling out of control. Consistent with any major crisis, the next several weeks, if not months, will see nearly all other policymaking grind to a halt as resources (time, personnel, and money) are diverted appropriately to tackling the challenge before us.

This leaves many unknowns about the fate of science funding and policymaking for the foreseeable future. In response, COSSA has decided to transition its Social Science Advocacy Day, originally designed as a “fly-in” for advocates to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, into a “phone-in.” In addition, we elected to delay the Advocacy Day phone-in by one month to April 27-28, 2020. If you are registered for Social Science Advocacy Day and have not been contacted by the COSSA team about these changes, please contact me.

We have outlined below some of the latest developments related to funding and policy important to the social and behavioral science community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional Congressional, Federal Agency, and community updates are also provided.

Finally, we recognize that in these trying times, the activities of Washington might be the farthest from your mind. We will continue to work on behalf of the social science research community during this uncertain time and report on new developments. But more importantly, we hope you will take care of yourself, your family, and your community.

Be well,

Wendy Naus
COSSA Executive Director

Congress

Congressional leaders have been busy working to address the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 6, the President signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill to address the pandemic. The funding measure included support for state and local health agencies, vaccine and treatment development, and loans for affected small business. More emergency funding and policy measures are expected from Congress.

The outlook for Congressional productivity, particularly on annual appropriations, is uncertain. On March 12, the House and Senate Sergeant at Arms directed the Capitol, as well as the House and Senate Office Buildings to be closed to the public and many Congressional offices have moved to working remotely.

It is too early to tell how the pandemic will affect science funding next year, let alone federal research support this year (check out the next section on how federal agencies are responding to the coronavirus). The COVID-19 crisis coupled with the upcoming Presidential election all but guarantees that fiscal year 2021 will begin on October 1 under a cloud of uncertainty and very likely a continuing resolution.

Federal Agencies

Federal research agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have released a series of informational documents and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects daily research functions at those agencies.

The NIH FAQ includes links to the most recent information available about how the epidemic will affect practices for existing research awards, affect future awards, how NIH can assist funded researchers with sunk costs for travel or conference fees, and how to best impose isolation in larger research institutions.

The NSF FAQ offers similar information about changes to research practices, but also includes several pieces of information about coronavirus research funding opportunities. NSF has released a Dear Colleague Letter providing guidance on submitting research proposals seeking to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The NSF Dear Colleague Letter states that research proposals related to COVID-19 may be submitted through existing funding opportunities at NSF, but also invites submissions through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism for quick-response and time-sensitive events. The NSF FAQ offers additional information about the logistics and special considerations of these coronavirus research proposals. The Dear Colleague Letter and more information about RAPID is available on the NSF website.

Useful Resources

General COVID-19 Resources:

University/Educator Resources:

Federal Agency Resources:

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Work on FY 2021 Appropriations Slows as Congress Works to Address Coronavirus Outbreak

While it is expected that Congress will soon put its regular appropriations work on hold as work shifts to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, committees have begun hearing testimony from Trump Administration officials on federal agencies’ budget proposals for fiscal year 2021. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier testified in front of the House Science Committee on the Administration’s budget for research and development (see previous coverage), NIH leadership testified before the House Appropriations Committee (see related article), and Department of Commerce leadership testified before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. No appropriations bills have been released or considered by the Committees. As the process moves forward—if it moves forward—COSSA will produce analyses of the proposals important to the social and behavioral sciences.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Holds Hearing on NIH Budget for FY 2021

On March 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) held a hearing on the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Witnesses included NIH Director Francis Collins; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director Diana Bianchi; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Director Gary Gibbons; National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless; and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow.

Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and full Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) all made glowing remarks in support of NIH and shared an optimism that the agency would receive a significant increase in its budget in FY 2021. Members of the Subcommittee questioned the witnesses on a variety of topics including NIH’s role in responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, initiatives addressing health disparities, Alzheimer’s disease research, open access of federally funded research, and several disease-specific topics. A statement from Collins and a recording of the hearing are available on the House LHHS website.

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2020 Census Begins Accepting Responses as COIVD-19 Poses Potential Follow-Up Hurdles

Earlier this month, households across the country began receiving invitations in the mail to complete their 2020 Census forms ahead of Census Day on April 1. Households can respond to the Census online, by phone, or by completing and mailing a paper questionnaire which will be sent to households who do not first respond online or by phone. Particularly in light of the massive disruptions and social distancing efforts caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, it is important for as many households as possible to self-respond to the Census, to minimize the in-person contact of enumerators who will be sent to household that do not respond on their own. The Bureau has released information about how the outbreak has changed its plans for the Census, particularly its strategy to ensure that college students are counted correctly. Even if students who are home on Census Day, April 1, should be counted according to the residence criteria which states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. Congress is closely monitoring the challenges the decennial faces. In an exchange during a recent Senate Appropriations hearing on the Department of Commerce budget with Sen. Brian Schatz, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed that the 2020 Census does not include a citizenship question, that the data are kept private and secure, and that information may only be used for statistical purposes.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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