Media Tip Sheet: GW Experts Available to Comment on Impact of Returning COVID-19 Relief Funding

May 22, 2023

WASHINGTON (May 22, 2023)—The unspent COVID-19 relief funding that was approved by Congress in 2020 has become a bargaining chip in the debt ceiling negotiations between the Biden administration and Republican House leaders. But public health experts say the funding is vital to states’ ability to combat sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and removing it would weaken efforts to stop the next pandemic. The bill House Republicans passed in April eliminates all unspent COVID-19 relief funding Congress has enacted -- slashing spending by about $30 billion over the next decade. States had expected to use the remaining funding to support local public health workers efforts to limit the spread of STDs and other infectious diseases.

The George Washington University has experts available to comment on a variety of issues related to public health efforts to prevent the spread of STDs and other infectious diseases. To request an interview please contact Rachel Larris, [email protected].

Naomi Seiler is an associate research professor in health policy and management at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. Professor Seiler’s research centers on the intersection of the evolving healthcare system with public health priorities. Seiler said this about impact of returning COVID-19 relief funding:

"Not just STD divisions, but whole health departments, have been running on fumes for years, with really stagnant funding levels despite ongoing need. The infusions of funding from Covid-19 bills were really important for states and localities to strengthen their response capacities in sustainable ways. It makes sense that it's taking health departments some time to incorporate these funds after so many lean years, and it would be a huge setback to public health in general if the funds were pulled away. This isn't just about STDs -it's also about the next outbreak, and our public health system's ongoing ability to keep us all safe."

Carlos E. Rodríguez-Díaz is an associate professor of prevention and community health at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. His work has focused on health equity through actions on the social determinants of health. Rodriquez-Diaz said this about the topic:

“The public health workforce has not recovered from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has shrunk due to burnout. At the same time, we have an increase in new cases of STIs, and we are managing outbreaks of emerging infections such as mpox. The resources allocated as part of the COVID-19 relief fund support the recruitment and retention of public health professionals and the implementation of testing, treatment, and prevention services. If this funding is removed, many jurisdictions will not have the resources to control outbreaks, provide access to prevention and care services, or respond to emergent diseases. As a country, we would not be ready to control current epidemics such as HIV and other STIs and won't be ready for the next epidemic. There are hopes that other funding sources for public health included in Biden's proposed 2024 budget will become law. Unfortunately, without these resources, vulnerable populations such as racial/ethnic minorities, rural communities, and sexual and gender minorities will be the most affected.”