Tuesday agreement protects preparedness funds temporarily

Approval of a deal to prevent the so-called fiscal cliff on Tuesday kept public health preparedness funds protected from budget cuts for at least the next two months.

The cuts would have significantly impacted Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants that states use for the preparation and response to public health threats like bioterror attacks and pandemic flu. A July estimate found that the sequestration would have cut $48 million in funding in fiscal year 2013 for the program, CIDRAP News reports.

The report, issued by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), warned that the cuts would have a harsh effect on programs effecting the middle class. Despite the July report, Harkin was one of eight senators who voted against the bill, criticizing its permanent tax benefits for high-income earners and its lack of revenue and job generation.

Public health advocates like Trust for America's Health also watched the end of the 112th Congress to see if there would be action on the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. Initially passed in 2006, the reauthorization would continue to support work on countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

The House passed the bill on December 19, but the Senate did not act on the legislation. As a result, the new Congress must begin the legislative process anew to reauthorize PAHPA, CIDRAP News reports.