WASHINGTON: Officials announced Thursday that the White House is seeking Congress for $22.5 billion in emergency funds to combat COVID-19 after using nearly all of the money set aside for the pandemic (Mar 3).
Cash previously approved by lawmakers, notably the US$1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, has nearly run out, and measures like as free COVID-19 testing will expire “this spring” unless fresh money is provided.
Approximately $4 billion would be spent on worldwide vaccination efforts, with the remainder going into testing, antiviral tablets, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccine development.
Shalanda Young, interim director of the Office of Management and Budget, made the request in a letter to Capitol Hill late Wednesday.
“Resources from previous COVID response Bills enabled us to fully vaccinate over 215 million Americans, provide one billion free testing to Americans, order 20 million antiviral treatment pills… and commit to providing 1.2 billion vaccines to the world,” Young said in a statement on Thursday.
“They also allowed us to respond firmly to the Delta and Omicron surges, but practically all of these monies are now depleted.”
The request comes as senators negotiate a bigger aid package, including a White House request for US$10 billion to solve the Ukraine situation, that they seek to include in an agreement to finance the government for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The funding for federal agencies expires on March 11, and party leaders in the House and Senate expect to enact the bill before that deadline.
While there is significant bipartisan support for Ukraine spending, the additional COVID-19 investment is expected to be contentious.
Mitt Romney and 35 other Senate Republicans demanded a “full accounting” of the US$6 trillion previously granted by Congress to combat the epidemic on Wednesday.
“While we have supported historic, bipartisan legislation in the United States Senate to enable unprecedented investments in vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics,” they wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden.
“Since the passage of the American Rescue Plan in February, doubts about where the additional money has gone have mounted,” the senators wrote.