As the nation marked the beginning of 2019, the 116th Congress kicked off with nearly 100 newly elected members taking office in early January. However, the new year also started off in the midst of a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in United States history.

The effects of the shutdown were far-reaching, with hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed from work and many federal agencies closed. Although a temporary agreement was reached, parts of the government only remain funded through Feb. 15.

Since medical research funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) was a part of a bill that already passed last fall, cancer research was not affected by the shutdown, and will continue to be funded through Sept. 30, even if a shutdown occurs once again.

However, the effects of such a drawn-out shutdown could delay progress on the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process, which would normally start at the beginning of the legislative session and the release of the president’s budget. Since a complete budget deal hasn’t yet been reached for FY19, timing for FY20 remains uncertain.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) will continue the fight for important pancreatic cancer research funding for FY20, regardless of Congress’s timeline.

PanCAN is excited about the opportunity of working with the new members of Congress, as well as continuing to work with our existing champions. Our Government Affairs & Advocacy team is on the ground in Washington, D.C., building relationships with new members and laying the groundwork for the pancreatic cancer community. Our passionate advocates are doing the same in their communities.

PanCAN is also reaching out to new key committee chairs to strengthen our relationships with them, including: Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), current chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, as well as Appropriations subcommittee chairs Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CA) for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) for Defense.

PanCAN will continue working with the Republican committee chairs in the Senate and encouraging both chambers to maintain the bipartisan cooperation that has resulted in increased funding for cancer research the past four years.

Additionally, PanCAN is fortunate to have longtime ally Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) as the new Health subcommittee chair for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Eshoo was one of the founders and remains co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on the Deadliest Cancers. She is frequently a champion of our issues, spearheading efforts to raise awareness and the profile of the disease on Capitol Hill.

Your elected representatives work for you! And you can help introduce PanCAN to these new members and get the word out about pancreatic cancer.

Get the ball rolling for pancreatic cancer funding in 2019 by welcoming the 116th Congress and making sure they know that pancreatic cancer research must be a legislative priority. PanCAN will continue to make all of our voices heard throughout the year, as we gear up for National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in June.