User fees paid by the drug and medical device industries support the salaries of hundreds of FDA staff. Federal employee union contracts require FDA to give employees 60 days’ notice if the government won’t have enough money to pay them. If a user fee bill isn’t ready to go by August 1, FDA must send out warnings of potential furloughs or layoffs. Usually, people start to get nervous if the bill isn’t done by the end of July, said Jeff Allen, president and CEO of Friends of Cancer Research.
User fee watchers are still optimistic that layoffs will be averted in time. No one at the FDA or in Congress wants to be responsible for those pinks slips. For comparison, the last user fee reauthorization, which took place five years ago, passed both chambers in June and was signed into law on July 9.