On Tuesday, we will be inaugurating a new president, President Elect Obama. Obama has inherited a country in severe financial distress, unemployment rates are at an amazingly high rate, bankruptcy filing at a new high and the real state market has crashed. No matter where you turn, there are houses in foreclosure and most people’s investment portfolio has lost a minimum of 1/3 of its value. Retirement funds have been decimated and businesses are closing. We in the United States, along with most of the rest of the world, are facing the most severe financial crisis the world has faced since the Great Depression.

Congress has bailed out the banking system and there is significant pressure to bail our other industries. The banks have recently returned to congress requesting even more funds. There is no blue print on how to save the economy as we have ventured into a new landscape. Economists have argued on how best to respond to the crisis. There seems to be a consensus that we need to increase the dollars available in the general economy to stimulate spending and get the economy back on track.

Congress will consider an economic stimulus package developed by the Obama Team that is titled, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009.” Currently, this proposed stimulus package contains $550 billion for a range of infrastructure, technology, and job programs. Thanks to the hard work of many cancer advocates, it also includes $3.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support lifesaving medical research and improve university research facilities across the country.

This funding allocation is an essential part of the overall plan to create jobs and shore up the economy, it is also a critical component of our effort to fight cancer and reduce cancer mortality. The hope of the advocates who have worked on this matter is to include this allocation so that this funding may provide resources and support to cancer centers and cancer researchers across the country. The goal is to help them pursue the research opportunities with the greatest likelihood of positively changing how we prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer while also creating jobs and helping the economy.

In the $3.9 billion budget allocation there is included a $500 million allocation for NIH campus improvements, $1.5 billion for university research facility upgrades, $1.5 billion for research ($750 million in FY09 and $750 million in FY10), and $400 million provided through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for comparative effectiveness research. The funds for NIH and university facility upgrades will be available for two years.

This bill still has a long way to travel before it lands on Obama’s desk for signature. Everyday we hear the predicted arrival time of the bailout legislation has been further delayed. We can only hope that it will be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee next week and then come before the full House for a vote by the end of January before being taken up by the Senate.

We need your continued outreach to House and Senate members to build support for the stimulus package and the life-saving funding for cancer research and the National Institutes of Health. Go to the Blog Roll on the right of the screen and click on Contacting Your Congressperson.

Do not forget to go to www.prostatecancerpetition.org and sign the petition to make prostate cancer a national priority. President Elect Obama will be inaugurated this Tuesday, so there is still time to get your name and the name of your friends and families to be a part of this historic movement.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW