August 6, 2020

Cassidy, Smith, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Eliminate COVID Testing Shortages, Allow for State Compacts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation yesterday to provide states with more resources to increase testing, provide faster results, and allow states to enter into interstate compacts to maximize efforts to eliminate the spread of COVID-19.

The Suppress COVID-19 Act appropriates $25 billion for states to purchase tests and testing supplies, and it authorizes states to enter into interstate compacts and regional agreements that allow them to overcome challenges with the testing supply chain. There is an additional $25 billion in funding provided to support testing administration, data modernization and other efforts that allow health officials to isolate outbreaks to more quickly reduce the spread of the virus. States would be required to meet certain criteria to receive funding.

“The Suppress COVID-19 Act uses market forces to increase testing capacity at a lower price per test. This is part of a strategy to safely reopen schools, churches and places of work. We must get our nation back to normal,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, there is no replacement for a federal strategy on testing,” said Senator Smith. “This bill requires the federal government to develop a strategy to provide guidance to states, while giving states the resources they need to implement a strong testing, tracing, and reopening strategy. Combined together, this will serve as a powerful approach to beating back this pandemic nationwide.” 

U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME) and Tom Carper (D-DE) cosponsored the legislation.

Under the bill, states are not required to use testing dollars in the context of regional agreements, however, those that do will be eligible for part of a $5 billion set-aside from the overall testing amount. Unlike states alone, regional compacts can:

  • give manufacturers of tests and supplies guaranteed contracts, providing them the certainty they need to ramp up testing capacity;
  • deliver innovative tests at an affordable price, rapidly expanding the national testing arsenal;
  • allow multiple states to leverage their market power to purchase tests and testing supplies at lower rates;
  • protect small, rural, and remote states from being crowded out of the testing market by big states; and
  • distribute tests across a region to plug gaps in testing capacity.