BISMARCK – U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a bipartisan letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the formula used to distribute federal funding to states for COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts, which leaves smaller states at a distinct disadvantage. The Senators requested the CDC use available discretionary funds to bolster funding for smaller states, which are receiving significantly fewer dollars under the revised allocation method for these grants relative to what the states would have received under traditional approach to allocations.

“If HHS and CDC do not act to provide additional resources to support smaller states that were shortchanged by this round of grant funding, our communities will not be equipped to meet the challenge of vaccine administration during this deadly pandemic,” wrote the senators. “We strongly encourage CDC to utilize additional discretionary funding at its disposal to provide more funding to our small states.”

The COVID-19 relief package signed into law last month directed HHS to distribute $4.5 billion in grants to support state, local, territorial and tribal-based COVID-19 vaccination efforts. It also directed HHS to distribute $22.4 billion in grants to these regions to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment, and virus mitigation efforts. In both instances, Congress directed HHS to allocate funding to states, localities, and territories according to the formula that applied to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement in fiscal year 2020 in determining the grant funding levels each state should receive. Unfortunately, Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 PHEP funding awards included non-formula components, and HHS and the CDC based the supplemental allocations solely on the population component of the formula. This modification disproportionately impacts smaller and more rural states.

The letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Ben Schatz (D-HI).