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ARPA-H Established Within NIH as Independent Entity

Earlier today, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra formally unveiled the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA) as an independent agency within the NIH.  Along with that announced, Adam H. Russell was named as the Acting Deputy Director of the new organization.

The creation of ARPA-H, modeled on its counterparts at the Department of Defense (DARPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), has been a priority of the Biden Administration.

Read more about today’s announcements here.

House Passes Omnibus, FY22 Chart Now Available

Yesterday the House passed an omnibus appropriations package for FY22, following negotiations between House and Senate appropriators. The final package includes modest increases for key scientific and higher education accounts. The Senate is expected to vote on the package quickly to send it to the President’s desk. Current government funding is set to expire on Friday, so another short continuing resolution will be necessary to allow the Senate to clear procedural steps.

A chart tracking key accounts relevant to UW is available here. Our office will post detailed updates as information becomes available. We will also discuss appropriations in more detail during our town hall on March 24th at noon PT (register here).

2022 Federal Agenda Now Live

The University of Washington has published our 2022 Federal Agenda reaffirming our commitment to a robust partnership with the federal government. You can view the agenda here.

On March 24th at 12pm PT, Director of Federal Relations Sarah Castro will participate in a Town Hall highlighting the key elements of our federal agenda. Members of the UW community can register here.

Register Now: Federal Relations Spring Town Hall

The Office of Federal Relations will host a virtual town hall for the campus community on Thursday, March 24th from 12pm-1pm PT. Our staff will provide an update on the federal budget, infrastructure and competitiveness bills, and preview the UW’s 2022 federal agenda. This will be followed by an opportunity for Q&A. Register here (NetID restricted).

Lawrence A. Tabak to Serve as Acting Director of NIH

Lawrence A. Tabak, the Principal Deputy Director of NIH, will take over as the Acting Director of the agency when the current head, Francis Collins, leaves later this month. Collins is scheduled to depart December 19.

Read more about Tabak and the announcement here.

It’s More Than Climate Provisions

The Office of Federal Relations continues to go through the current iteration of the reconciliation package.  In our last post, we highlighted some of the education, research, and climate-related provisions.  Not surprisingly, there are myriad other provisions of interest in the text.

A significant portion of the funds for the USDA would be dedicated to efforts to address challenges posed by wildfires.  For example, $2 billion is slated for efforts to reduce wildfires and $1 billion is earmarked to implement wildfire protection plans.  The plan would also allocate $25 million for burned forest forest rehabilitation and recovery and $150 million would be dedicated to state fire assistance programs.  The EPA section of the bill would create a $150-million community wildfire planning grants program.

The current version of the legislation includes several competitive grant programs to address wildfires/ land forest management as well.  These include, for example, a $250-million proposal to implement climate mitigation/ forest resilience practice among underserved forest landowners as well as a $200-million for a forest health/inventory program.  The bill also calls for the creation of a $775-million program to promote innovate wood products, including for building materials.

Tax

The reconciliation bill includes a number of tax-related provisions of interest to UW and other universities.  A change to the tax code that might be of interest to some public universities is the proposed creation of a public university research infrastructure tax credit in which up to 40 percent of a qualified cash contribution for projects related to the purchase, construction, or improvement of a research infrastructure property would be credited.  The credit would be capped at $50 million per institution per year and the total amount of the credit would be capped at $500 million per year for five years.

The text also proposes to provide a 20-percent credit to institutions of higher education that take on certain categories of environmental justice programs.  The credit would increase to 30 percent for Minority-Serving Institutions.  The total size of the program would be capped at $1 billion per year for 10 years.

The proposal seeks to make changes to the revenue code as it applies to individual students and families as well.  It would remove a Pell Grant award from a tax filer’s gross income for tax purposes.  It would also not count the value of a student/family’s Pell Grant for the purposes of determining the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifelong Learning Credit.  Another provision would restore the eligibility of those convicted for drug offenses to participate in the AOTC.

Medical/ Health Care Workforce

The current framework also delves into the medical/ health care workforce arena, looking to add significant funds in a number of different fields.  For instance, Sec. 137401 looks to provide scholarships to medical schools to attract 1,000 future medical doctors to serve in rural and/or underserved communities.  The vouchers for scholarships would be aimed at students coming from first generation/ Pell-eligible/underserved backgrounds.

Examples of other medical/ health care workforce-related measures include:  $150 million for children’s hospitals that house graduate medical education; $650 million for the National Health Service Corps; $200 million for the Nurse Corps; $170 million for schools of nursing to grow and diversify nursing workforce in maternal and prenatal health; and, $85 million to health professions schools to address health risks related to climate change.

Immigration-Related Matters

The Congressional Democrats continue to seek to use the reconciliation package to address a number of immigration- and visa-related issues.

As noted in the previous post, the package would extend federal student aid eligibility to DACA- and Temporary Protected Status-eligible students.  It would also enable individuals who entered the country prior to January 1, 2010, to seek green cards.  The framework also proposes to recapture both unused employment- and family-based green cards from prior years and make them available going forward.

However, in its current form, the legislative text would increase a host of fees associated with international students, faculty, and staff, including those on F, J, and H visas, among other visas categories.  We are still assessing the scope and magnitude of these proposed increases.

Next Steps

We continue to go through the text.  It is important to keep in mind that the version that is currently being analyzed most likely will not be the final version that gets taken up for a vote, as negotiations still continue even as this is being written.

Stay tuned.

Announcement: Federal Relations Autumn 2021 Town Hall

Please join us for the inaugural quarterly Federal Relations Town Hall.

Thursday, October 21st at 12:00pm PT

After a presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions or offer comments/concerns regarding the UW’s federal advocacy priorities.

If you would like to join in-person, please RSVP here. Space is limited.

If you would like to join via Zoom, please register here.

This event is restricted to members of the UW community. A valid Net-ID is required to participate.

 

House Committees Do Their Part on Reconciliation

As instructed by their budget reconciliation instructions, 13 House committees wrapped up by yesterday their respective portions of the $3.5 trillion budget package.  The different pieces will be combined into a single vehicle by the House Budget Committee.  The package represents one of the center pieces of the Biden Administration’s domestic agenda.  There has not yet been any official comparable action on the Senate side yet.

Various pieces produced by the different committees are of great interest to UW and the broader higher education and scientific research community.  Some of the highlights of the different bills are provided below.

Education and Labor

The legislation approved by the Education and Labor Committee, which was passed along party lines, includes myriad provisions with direct impact on higher education.  How much these provisions change in the Senate and the actual details of possible implementation remain to be seen.

Arguably the biggest and costliest higher education-related provision in the bill is an attempt to make two years of community college free.  The bill would create a federal-state partnership that seeks to discourage states from charging tuition and fees for community colleges.  The bill would also increase the Pell Grant maximum by $500.

In keeping with the Administration’s focus on MSIs, the bill would also provide additional funds to reduce the tuition levels of students attending such institutions for their first two years.  In addition, the legislation calls for a new R&D infrastructure program for MSIs, with a priority to those with research volumes less than $10 million per year.

In addition, the committee-approved bill includes funding for a number of teacher-prep, -training, and K-12 leadership programs.

The text of the base bill before the markup is available here and a summary of the legislation produced by the majority staff on the committee is available here.

Science, Space, and Technology

Like the bill that was produced by the Education and Labor Committee, the legislation that was marked up by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee is also of significant relevance to the higher education and research community.

Not surprisingly, the committee’s bill includes a number of provisions related to NSF.  For example, it would provide $3.4 billion for “research-enabling equipment, facilities, and infrastructure”, of which $1 billion would support academic research facilities (including a $300-million set-aside for MSIs).  The legislation also includes more than $7.5 billion to fund or extend new or existing awards, fellowships, and scholarships, of which $700 million would be reserved for MSIs.  It also includes language indicating that the funds could be used to fund the new Directorate at the agency focused on technology, which is the center piece of separate bills in both chambers of Congress.

Also not surprising is the bill’s support for climate-related science and research, including, but not limited to, efforts at NOAA, EPA, and NASA.  For example, the legislation would allocate more than $1.2 billion for weather, ocean, and climate research and forecasting and $765 million for climate adaptation and resilience activities at NOAA.  It also calls for nearly $390 million for climate change-related research and development at NASA and more than $260 million for climate change-related research at the EPA.

The legislation would also provide more than $740 million for deferred maintenance needs of NOAA research infrastructure.

The text of the legislation before the markup is available here.

Natural Resources

The bill produced by this committee would also provide additional funds for climate-related research and resilience and adaptation efforts.  For example, under the bill, NOAA Coastal Hazards and Sea Level Rise programs would receive $500 million to increase support for IOOS, shoreline mapping, decision-support frameworks, and research and development activities.  In addition, the committee-approved legislation would provide $9.5 billion for the Coastal and Great Lakes Restoration and Technical Assistance Program.

At the USGS, the bill would increase funding for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers program by $100 million.

As part of a larger effort in the legislation, fire science and research would also receive funding.

The committee used this version of the legislation as the basis for the markup.

Energy and Commerce

The Energy and Commerce Committee very broad jurisdiction, including in many instances, healthcare.  The legislation that was approved by the committee includes provisions in that area.  For example, the bill would provide $3 billion for the creation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H), a proposal initially advanced by Biden Administration.

The legislation also seeks to provide additional resources for medical education as well s as nursing education and program, including payments to teaching health centers that operate graduate medical education programs.

A copy of the base bill for the markup is available  here.

Judiciary

The bill produced by the House Judiciary Committee includes several changes to current immigration law that would be welcomed by the higher education committee.  However, depending on decisions that are forthcoming from the Senate Parliamentarian regarding whether such provisions are allowed in a reconciliation package, the prospects of these provisions going forward remain unclear.

The legislation would extend green card eligibility to several categories of individuals, including those historically meeting the definitions laid out in the DREAM Act.  It would also provide additional work- and family-based green cards by recapturing such unused visas, going back to FY1992.

A copy of the bill that served as the base bill for the markup is available here.

Ways and Means

The Ways and Means Committee-approved bill also includes several provisions of interest to UW and the broader higher education community.

For example, it would reinstate advanced refunding bonds and would create new direct pay bonds.  It would also remove the taxability of the portion of the Pell Grant not used for tuition and fees and would ensure that the interplay between the Pell Grant and the Lifetime Learning and the American Opportunity Tax Credit would not impact the tax credits for students and families.  It would also phase out the Paid Leave Tax Credit first created by the FFCRA two years early.

This bill would also create a tax credit program for contributions made to public universities for research infrastructure purposes; priority would be given to institutions with FTE student populations of less than 12,000.

Portions of the bill that served as the starting points for the committee are available here and here.  Summary documents are here and here.

Next Steps

As noted above, the House Budget Committee is expected to combine the different bills into a single package, perhaps as soon as next week.  How the Senate proceeds on reconciliation remains to be seen.

We will continue to provide updates.

CJS, Labor-HHS Bills Clear Committee, Energy-Water Is Next

During a day-long mark-up session, the House Appropriations Committee cleared yesterday both the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) and the Labor-HHS-Education (L-HHS) bills.

CJS

  • NSF

The press release about the CJS measure passing the committee is available here.  The detailed report that accompanies the bill is available here.

The committee-approved legislation would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $9.63 billion, $1.15 billion, or 13.5%, above the current level.  Within NSF, the Research and Related Activities account would be increased by $786.0 million, or 11.4%, to $7.70 billion, while the Education and Human Resources line would see an increase of $306.3 million, or 31.5%, to $1.27 billion.  The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would be funded at $249.0 million, an $8 million-increase.

The accompanying report language reads, in part, “In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117–2) included $600,000,000 for the National Science Foundation to fund or extend new and existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, fellowships, and apprenticeships, and related administrative expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”

  • NASA

As noted on Friday, NASA is slated for $25.04 billion under the bill, an increase of $1.77 billion.

The Science Mission Directorate would see an increase of $668.5 million for a total of $7.97 billion.

As part of the Office of STEM Engagement,  the bill proposes to fund the Space Grant program at $60 million, which is currently funded at $51 million.

  • NOAA

The bill calls for an increase of $1.03 billion for NOAA, for a total of $6.46 billion in FY2022. It also calls for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), NOAA’s research arm, to be funded at $684.5 million.  This represents an increase of approximately $114 million over the current year’s funding level, as OAR received $570.6 million for FY2021.

Also as noted previously, although there does not appear to be any explicit funding allocated for the creation of “ARPA-C”, the Climate Research program within OAR would see a $71-million increase, for a total of $253 million.

Sea Grant would see a $10-million increase to $85 million, with the increase dedicated to a coastal resiliency initiative.

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) would be funded at $50 million, an increase of $9 million.

Labor-HHS-Education

The committee took up the Labor-HHS bill first yesterday before moving on the CJS bill.  The press release for yesterday’s action is available here.  The detailed report accompanying the bill is also on the committee website, here.

Here are a few more details about the bill–

NIH

The bill calls for $49.4 billion for NIH, an increase of $6.5 billion above the current level.  Of the proposed $6.5-billion increase, $3.5 billion would be for the base NIH budget and $3 billion would be for the creation of ARPA-Health (ARPA-H), a new proposal from the Biden Administration.  The report states that ARPA-H should be a distinct entity within the NIH structure.

In addition to providing funds to the newly proposed ARPA-H, the bill would also add resources to other efforts at the NIH, such as:

  • $7 billion, an increase of $432 million above the FY 2021 enacted level, for the National Cancer Institute, including $194 million for the Cancer Moonshot;
  • $541 million, an increase of $41 million above the FY 2021 enacted level, for the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative; and,
  • $612 million, an increase of $52 million above the FY 2021 enacted level, for the BRAIN Initiative.

Higher Education

International education programs (Title VI)

Under the House bill, the collection of international education programs would see an increase of 19.2% and would be funded at $93.2 million.  Currently, these programs are funded at $78.2 million.  More specifically, Domestic Programs would see an increase of $10 million, or 14.4%, to $79.35 million.  The Fulbright-Hays International Programs would be funded at $13.81 million, an increase of $5 million, or 56.8%.

Finally, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has indicated that the Labor-HHS measure, along with five others– Agriculture, Energy and Water, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation– will be packaged into a larger bill for floor action during the week of July 26.

 

NIH Listening Sessions on ARPA-H

The NIH will host various listening sessions related to the creation of ARPA-H. The ARPA-H proposal would create a special advanced research arm of the NIH. The goal of the listening sessions is to collect stakeholder feedback from the scientific, patient advocacy, and medical community. Sessions are organized by topic, and registration is available here.