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Upton, DeGette lead 182 Members of Congress in urging relief for science and medical research community

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Washington, April 29, 2020 | Josh Paciorek (202-313-2643) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of 182 lawmakers, led by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI), are urging House Leadership to include $26 billion in the next coronavirus relief package for scientific and medical researchers who have been impacted by the pandemic.

While coronavirus-related research is now in overdrive, most other research has been slowed down or stopped altogether due to pandemic-induced closures of campuses and laboratories.

Without action from Congress, the lawmakers are concerned that hundreds of thousands of graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators and other technical support staff are at risk of losing their employment and their work.

“These researchers are essential to protecting our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness,” the lawmakers wrote today to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world.”

The funding would cover supplements for research grants and contracts. It would also cover costs of research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities and user-funded research services until facilities reopen and research activities return to pre-pandemic activity levels. Finally, this money would fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships and research assistantships, with priority given to those who could not complete research or degrees due to the coronavirus.

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

As Congress continues to work on economic relief legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we ask that you address the challenges faced by the U.S. scientific research workforce during this crisis.  While COVID-19 related-research is now in overdrive, most other research has been slowed down or stopped due to pandemic-induced closures of campuses and laboratories. We are deeply concerned that the people who comprise the research workforce – graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff – are at risk. 

While Federal rules have allowed researchers to continue to receive their salaries from federal grant funding, their work has been stopped due to shuttered laboratories and facilities and many researchers are currently unable to make progress on their grants. Additionally, researchers will need supplemental funding to support an additional four months’ salary, as many campuses will remain shuttered until the fall, at the earliest. Many core research facilities – typically funded by user fees – sit idle. Still, others have incurred significant costs for shutting down their labs, donating the personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health care workers, and cancelling planned experiments.

Congress must act to preserve our current scientific workforce and ensure that the U.S. is prepared to continue our global scientific leadership once this crisis ends.

We strongly support the fourth relief package to include of $26 billion in funding to cover the following important research work:

  • Cover supplements for research grants and contracts (i.e., cost extensions) due to COVID-19 related impacts, including the need for additional salary support and/or research related ramp-up costs;
  • Provide emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities and user-funded research services until such time facilities reopen and research activities return to pre-pandemic activity levels; and
  • Fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships for up to two years. Graduate students who could not complete their degrees due to pandemic related impacts should be given priority for graduate fellowships and other forms of support so they can complete their research and degrees.

Supporting the people of the U.S. scientific and medical research community will help stimulate the U.S economy in the near term by keeping these workers employed. Protecting the research workforce is critical to state and local economies as research universities, academic medical centers, independent research institutes, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states.

In the long term, these researchers are essential to protecting our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness. Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world. 

We appreciate your leadership as Congress continues to respond to the economic fallout from this pandemic.  Thank you for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

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