News: Public Health

Federal Government Remains Partially Closed: What it Means for Public Health

Monday, January 7, 2019  
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The partial shutdown of the Federal government that began December 22 is still ongoing. Reopening the Federal government will be the most pressing priority for the incoming 116th Congress. The President has requested $5 billion in border wall funding before he will sign any further appropriations bills. Democrats have refused to provide border wall funding and have passed an omnibus bill (H.R. 21) to fully fund six of the seven remaining spending bills through FY2019 and providing short term funds through February 8 for the Department of Homeland Security so that negotiations can continue.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has so far refused to bring this bill up for the vote because he says it lacks the support of the president.

Most public health programs are not affected by the shutdown. FY2019 HHS funding passed and became law in September. However, the FDA,U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),and the Indian Health Service are currently closed.Though Indian Health Service is under the purview HHS, it is funded through the Interior-Environment bill, which has yet to pass. HHS has suspended grants that support tribal health programs, as well as preventive health clinics run by the Office of Urban Indian Health Programs.

As of now, the 40 million recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will not be affected by the USDA closure, which will continue operating into February. Food assistance programs for women, children and infants such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) will continue operating as normal and have not reported any disturbances at the local and state level. However,no additional federal funds will support those programs once funding runs out in February unless the government is reopened. NACCHO encourages its members to help get the word out that WIC remains open.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), based within CDC, has been shut down because funding comes through EPA.The agency will continue carrying out emergency-related functions, but it cannot support most environmental professional training programs, continuous updating of health exposure assessments and recommendations, and technical assistance, analysis, and other support to state and local partners.At FDA,some safety activities like routine inspections, compliance, and enforcement will be shut down, as will most non-urgent laboratory research. Some meetings with FDA could also be postponed.Food safety activities at FDA and USDA funded through user fees continue as normal.

Senate Confirms Drug Czar
The Senate confirmed Jim Carroll as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Carroll, who has been leading ONDCP since April 2018, officially takes over as drug czar at a pivotal moment in the fight against the opioid epidemic and substance misuse. NACCHO has previously met with Carroll and ONDCP staff about the opioid epidemic.

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