Lawmakers in the House and Senate have called for the next coronavirus stimulus package to include $26 billion in funding to address the challenges faced by the U.S. scientific workforce during the pandemic. The proposed funding would cover supplements for research grants and contracts, provide emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and operating costs for research facilities, and fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships for up to two years. The Dear Colleague Letters calling for this support has been endorsed by several scientific organizations, including AIBS.
In the House of Representatives, the letter led by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) garnered bipartisan support from 180 other Representatives. The letter reads, in part: “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.”
The Senate letter, led by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), has been signed by 31 Senators. “Research universities, academic medical centers, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states, and protecting the research workforce is critical to state economies,” stated the Senators. “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.”