President Obama on March 13 signed into law the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act, which provides preparedness funding to hospitals and public health agencies.

The funds assist in planning, training and acquiring needed equipment to enable hospitals and communities to better respond to public health emergencies and disasters on their own, and to improve coordination when federal assistance also is needed.

The reauthorized law, first enacted in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina, gives new flexibility to states. It enables them to temporarily deploy federally funded state personnel whose jobs are not directly related to emergencies to meet immediate needs. “For example, staff paid through HIV grant funding could be deployed for a short term to provide care for the public during a pandemic,” according to an explanation from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The law also funds through 2018 the purchases of drugs, vaccines and medical equipment in the event of a pandemic or terrorist attack and increases the flexibility of the federal BioShield Project to support development of new medical countermeasures. The Food and Drug Administration also has new authorization to permit emergency use of certain products as medical countermeasures. Text of the law is available here.

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