Velazquez Bill Seeks to Protect Staffing at Health Agencies
Washington, DC –Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced legislation aimed at ensuring there are adequate staffing levels at key agencies that protect the public health. Her bill, H.R. 1561, would exempt the Centers for the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) from a hiring freeze instituted when President Trump signed an Executive Order in late January.
“The CDC and the NIH perform vital public health missions and artificially reducing their staffing levels endangers the public health,” Velázquez said. “President Trump’s hiring freeze for all federal agencies makes for bad, shortsighted policy, but these agencies in particular need to be operating at maximum capacity to prevent disease outbreaks and pursue cutting edge research.”
CDC’s primary responsibility is the control and prevention of disease in the US and internationally. The agency directs resources toward developing and applying disease control and prevention. It especially focuses its attention on infectious disease, food borne pathogens and environmental health. The agency has been particularly out front in battling the Zika Virus and played an active role combatting the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016.
“At a time when Zika has been detected in 49 states and infected tens of thousands in Puerto Rico, we need CDC’s services more than ever,” Velázquez noted. “It would be the height of irresponsibility to hamper the agency with staffing restrictions, right now.”
The second agency exempted from the hiring freeze under Velázquez’s legislation is the NIH, the primary U.S. entity responsible for biomedical and health-related research. NIH conducts its own research through its Intramural Research Program (IRP) and provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program. The IRP is the largest biomedical research institution in the world.
“NIH has been at the forefront of developing innovative new therapies and securing groundbreaking advances in areas like cancer research,” Velázquez noted. “Ensuring NIH can continue this lifesaving work is a moral imperative and that includes ending this ill-conceived hiring freeze.”
Velázquez’s legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for consideration. The measure is cosponsored by seven other House Members.