379: Changes to Emergency Powers, Hill Gives ASTHO Recess Homework

Gregory Sunshine, Public Health Analyst with the Centers for Disease Control, explains how state and territorial emergency powers have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic; and Carolyn Mullen, ASTHO Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and...

Gregory Sunshine, Public Health Analyst with the Centers for Disease Control, explains how state and territorial emergency powers have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic; and Carolyn Mullen, ASTHO Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations, tells us what Congress wants to know in her latest “View from Washington D.C.” report.

ASTHO Blog Article: New Study Published in Journal of Emergency Management Highlights Shifts in State and Territorial Emergency Powers Since the COVID-19 Pandemic

Preparedness Summit Webpage: What Is the Future of Legal Preparedness? Legislative and Judicial Trends During COVID-19 and How Changes in the Law May Impact Emergency Response Capabilities

ASTHO Webpage: Be in the Know


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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, March 17th, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



The COVID-19 pandemic was the first time in history when every governor of the 55 states and territories declared some type of emergency in response to the exact same event.



Gregory Sunshine with the CDC on a study that shows how state and territorial emergency powers have shifted since the nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



So CDC and our colleagues, ASTHO and National Governors Association (NGA), both of whom have been key partners in CDC's legal preparedness efforts, recognize that jurisdictions response capabilities prior to COVID-19 may be different now, due to these changes in the law, and that it was important to examine these legislative changes to better enable emergency management and public health officials to account for this new legal landscape, as they plan for future threats.



ASTHO teamed with the CDC and the National Governors Association (NGA) to compile the data. Sunshine says some laws expanded the use up emergency response tools, while others placed more limits on public health agencies.



So, for example, enhancements included expanding the pool of eligible medical professionals that could administer vaccinations, as well as strengthening public health investigation and enforcement authority. Restrictions, on the other hand, included establishing mechanisms for legislatures to terminate emergency response activities, and prohibiting the use of certain response strategies such as removing agency's authority to restrict or impair business operations during a disaster.



The study team has an article about this work in the Journal of Emergency Management. Also, the findings will be presented during a session at the Preparedness Summit in Atlanta in late April. There's a link to the article and the event page in the show notes.


Congress is on recess this week, but it left ASTHO some homework. ASTHO's Government Affairs team has been answering Hill questions. Carolyn Mullen is Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Relations. She tells us what Congress wants to know in her latest "View from Washington D.C." report. Congress is in recess this week, but ASTHO has been busy sending information to the Hill, what does Congress want to know?



So, Congress when they're in recess, it's typically an opportunity for the Government Affairs team to take a little bit of a breather. Recess has a lot of positive terminology. If you remember, as a kid, you would go outside swinging on the swings, hang out with friends.


Unfortunately, this week wasn't like that for the Government Affairs team, Congress issued a series of requests for information (RFIs), which is a new way to gather information from advocates. So, what they do is they will send out an email and request you to respond to a series of questions. And they come in various formats, some RFIs will request for you to enter information to a Google document, and some are more formal with a letter request.


So, this week, we responded to a request for information on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) in the House. Also in the Senate, they're working on a request for information on the health care workforce, and we're going to make the case that Congress needs to include the public health workforce and any efforts. But the focus of our conversation today is on the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act since we submitted those comments just on Monday.



And the act is up for renewal later this year. So, can you tell us what ASTHO's take is on the act and what you're hoping to get out of this process this year?



So, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was first signed into law shortly after the 911 attacks. And the purpose of this law was to improve the nation's public health and medical preparedness and response capabilities for emergencies, and that was first signed into law in 2006. So since then, the law has been reauthorized or renewed a series of times, happens about every five years, it's an opportunity for Congress to take a deep dive and take a look at these programs of what needs to be improved.


So our priorities for reauthorization include increasing the authorization level for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement at CDC, and also the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) hospital preparedness programs. We also want to increase the impact and efficiency of state and local funding by providing multi year awards. We'd like a permanent seat on the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise or (PHEMCE). We want to improve functionality and transparency of the strategic national stockpile and we are calling for Congress to authorize an adult immunization program as part of the PAHPA reauthorization.



Now that the information has been turned in, what is next in the process?



Well, the Senate we've heard is going to issue their request for information any day now, so we'll go through that same process and respond to the various questions that the Senate is seeking information on. It's expected that the House is going to produce a bill for feedback, probably by the end of May, and we're not sure where the Senate is in terms of their timeline, but these programs need to be reauthorized by the end of September. Otherwise, it creates a real challenge to get appropriations or funding through the annual appropriations process.



This is not all you're doing, you're also getting ready for a trip to the Hill next week, tell us about that.



So, ASTHO President Anne Zink will be testifying before the House’s Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss our FY 24 appropriations priorities. So, we're really excited that she gets that opportunity to speak to the new chair of the committee, Chair Aderholt and Ranking Member DeLauro. And it's a great opportunity for ASTHO to showcase our members and the work that they do in the states and to educate Congress on public health infrastructure, social determinants of health and data modernization.



Another busy week in Washington, D.C., Carolyn Mullen, we appreciate your report, and we hope you have a Happy St. Patrick's Day.



Thank you.



Finally, this morning, stay informed about public health policy moves in Congress and state legislatures across the country with ASTHO's legislative alert emails. Add your email to the list using the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information. I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Carolyn Mullen

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & PR, ASTHO

Gregory Sunshine JD

Public Health Analyst, CDC