Spending Bill Passes But Cuts to Biomedical Research Funding Remain

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, with the Senate passing the bill last night.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, with the Senate passing the bill last night. The mammoth act, which totaled $1.1 trillion, will essentially keep the government running through fiscal year 2014 and restore some of the cuts caused by the sequestration to, among other agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That agency is expected to receive a budget of nearly $30 billion, representing a $1 billion increase from fiscal year 2013.

With that budget, the nation’s foremost biomedical research agency in cancer should be able to keep current projects going and fund about 385 new research grants, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee. But NIH funding levels mandated by the fiscal year 2014 spending bill are still $714 million short of the agency’s pre-sequestration budget.

Oncology researchers interested in research grants should note that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is making a new guidance document available, “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards,” which contains policies on federal-wide regulations on research grants. On her blog, “Rock Talk,” Salley Rockey, MD, NIH’s deputy director for extramural research, highlights the new changes in the grant application:

  • New effort reporting guidelines give grantees much more flexibility in how investigators document their time and effort on their award.
  • Updated rules on charging administrative costs to grants as direct costs.
  • Updated rules on directly charging computing devices that are necessary and support the work of, but are not solely dedicated to, a Federal award.
  • Family-friendly policies allowing grantees more flexibility to address temporary dependent-care costs.
  • All types of grantee institutions are allowed a one-time extension of indirect (“F&A”) costs, i.e. the option of extending negotiated rates for up to 4 years subject to approval of the Federal agency.
  • Grantee organizations that have never received a negotiated indirect cost rate may choose to use a minimum 10% modified total direct cost rate instead.

The House approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2014 (H.R. 3547) on Jan. 15 by a vote of 359—67, and the Senate approved it a day later 72–26. In the final version of the bill, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee put on hold any new funding for the Affordable Care Act in 2014 and also cut $1 billion out of the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. Despite the changes, President Obama is expected to sign it.

In addition to the increases seen for the NIH, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is slated to receive a $3.7 billion budget, which is almost $200 million less than what the agency received last year, but equal to what it would receive under sequestration. Some $305 million is earmarked for the timely processing and payment of benefits.