This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its proposed legislation to fund programs under the Department of Health and Human Services in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. As a result of continued Prevent Blindness advocacy efforts, the Senate Appropriations legislation includes a total of $6 million for vision and eye health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In particular, the Senate proposes to fund the Vision Health Initiative (VHI) at $2 million in FY2022 – a $1 million increase over FY2021. Notably, the Senate legislation directs the CDC to improve “existing surveillance of social, economic, and environmental contexts as related to eye healthcare disparities.” The CDC’s Glaucoma project would continue to be funded at $4 million. If the legislation is enacted into law, the VHI’s funding level would be at its highest since FY2010. Earlier this spring, 117 organizations joined Prevent Blindness in a letter to Congress urging an increase funding for vision and eye health programs at the CDC.
“Prevent Blindness applauds the Senate for recognizing the importance of investing in vision and eye health programs at the CDC,” said Jeff Todd, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “The VHI addresses our national vision impairment and eye disease burden through public health surveillance, research, and evidence-based interventions. With over 93 million Americans at high risk of vision loss and 721 counties in the United States without a practicing eye care provider, this critical and timely investment will strengthen the VHI’s ability to collaborate with states and communities around early detection, intervention, and prevention efforts and to help address disparities in equitable access to eye care.”
Currently, the federal government is operating on a continuing resolution (which funds programs at FY2021 levels) through at least December 3, 2021. While the House passed its version of the FY2022 appropriations bills earlier this summer, the Senate would still need to agree to FY2022 legislation and reconcile differences with the House bills before sending a final package to President Biden for signature into law. As this process continues, Prevent Blindness urges Congress to work together to increase the VHI’s funding over its current funding level and move toward final passage of FY2022 legislation.