As Montana COVID Vaccine Distribution Funds Fall Short, Tester Urges Trump Administration to Make Up the Difference

Senator pushes Administration to provide smaller-population states with supplementary funding to bolster vaccination efforts, contact tracing, and testing

Following use of a modified formula to distribute federal funding for vaccine administration efforts that disadvantages small and rural states, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of his colleagues in urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide additional support for low-population states to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Montana received $9.6 million, an estimated $23 million-or 62 percent-less funding than projected, hurting the state’s ability to vaccinate more effectively, stand up contact tracing efforts, and expand testing. Congress directed HHS to allocate funding to states, localities, and Tribes according to the formula applied to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Unfortunately, FY2020 grants included non-formula components, and HHS and the CDC based supplemental awards solely on the population component of the traditional PHEP formula, resulting in lower-population states seeing significantly smaller awards.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield, Tester and his colleagues urged the agencies to tap into discretionary funding to offset this imbalance and ensure small states aren’t left behind.

“We write to bring your attention to concerns that we have with the formula used to distribute federal funding to states for COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts, which leaves smaller states at a distinct disadvantage,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “…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.”

The Senators continued: “For these reasons, we strongly encourage CDC to utilize additional discretionary funding at its disposal to provide more funding to our small states.”

The emergency funding allocated in December’s COVID relief package directed $4.5 billion in grants to support state, local, and Tribal governments’ vaccination efforts. An additional $22.4 billion in grants are targeted to strengthen contact tracing, and expand COVID-19 testing.

Tester and his colleagues are requesting that HHS utilize $4.25 billion in discretionary funding allocated to the CDC as part of the December COVID relief bill to offset the discrepancy caused by the formula change, ensuring rural and lower-population states have the resources they need to effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Tester has fought tirelessly to ensure Montana has the resources it needs to combat the coronavirus pandemic. He recently secured nearly $12 million in pandemic relief funds for Montana health care providers, and he successfully negotiated a COVID Relief Package last month that includes relief for unemployed Montanans, hard-hit small businesses, and funds for vaccine distribution.