What’s in the American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine and Other Public Health Efforts?

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2), a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, into law.  Among other things, this latest relief bill, the nation’s sixth, infuses new funding for critical COVID-19 public health activities, including vaccine distribution, testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and the public health workforce, building on prior emergency relief funding provided by Congress (other provisions of the bill expand the Affordable Care Act by making marketplace and private health insurance more affordable and by providing new incentives to states that have not yet expanded their Medicaid programs to do so). Funding for COVID-19 public health focused activities in the bill totals almost $93 billion, most of which has been made available until expended. The main public health provisions are as follows:

  • $7.5 billion (Section 2301) to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID–19 vaccine distribution and administration, including support for State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health departments. Activities include the establishment and expansion of community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination units, particularly in underserved areas; reporting enhancements; communication efforts; and transportation of individuals to vaccination, particularly underserved populations.
  • $1 billion (Section 2302) to HHS to provide to CDC for vaccine confidence, information, and education activities.
  • $6.05 billion (Section 2303) to HHS to support the supply chain for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and ancillary medical products through research, development, manufacturing, production, and purchasing
  • $500 million (Section 2304) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for activities related to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, including for evaluation of their continued performance, safety, and effectiveness and facilitation of advanced continuous manufacturing.
  • $47.8 billion (Section 2401) to HHS for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and mitigation activities, including for the development of a national evidence-based strategy, support for State, local, and territorial public health departments, support for development, manufacturing, procurement, distribution, and administration of tests, and to establish and expand Federal, State, local, and territorial testing and contact tracing capabilities.
  • $1.75 billion (Section 2402) to HHS to be provided to CDC for SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequencing and surveillance, including support for State, local, Tribal, or territorial public health departments or public health laboratories.
  • $500 million (Section 2404) to CDC for data modernization and forecasting.
  • $7.66 billion (Section 2501) to HHS for the public health workforce, including support for State, local, and territorial public health departments to hire case investigators, contact tracers, social support specialists, community health workers, public health nurses, disease intervention specialists, epidemiologists, program managers, laboratory personnel, informaticians, communication and policy experts, and any other positions as may be required to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID–19 and to provide PPE.
  • $100 million (Section 2502) to HHS for the medical reserve corps.
  • $7.6 billion (Section 2601) to HHS for community health centers for activities including COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration, testing, contact tracing, mitigation, workforce enhancement, and community outreach and education.
  • $10 billion (Section 3101) to enhance use of the Defense Production Act for the purchase, production, or distribution of medical supplies and equipment for COVID-19 including for testing, PPE, vaccines and other drugs and biological products.
  • $2.34 billion (Section 11001) to the Indian Health Service for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration ($600 million); testing, contact tracing and mitigation ($1.5 billion); and public health workforce for COVID-19 ($240 million).