Story at a glance
- The funds were made available to federal agencies and states in April to bolster testing, develop contact tracing and increase disease surveillance.
- About $10.25 billion was given to states and U.S. territories in May for testing and contact tracing, but just $121 million as of Aug. 14 had been spent, according to the Journal.
- Another $5.7 billion was allocated for government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, $1.62 billion of those funds have been committed to the agencies.
Months after Congress allocated roughly 25 billion dollars in federal aid to bolster coronavirus testing across the U.S., billions of dollars still remain unspent, according to an analysis of the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) data by The Wall Street Journal.
The funds earmarked for federal agencies and states to boost testing, develop contact tracing and increase disease surveillance were part of the Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act.
The Wall Street Journal reports that since the funds were made available in April, only about 10 to 15 percent of the 25 billion has been spent or committed to efforts to increase testing.
About $10.25 billion was given to states and U.S. territories in May for testing and contact tracing, but, as of Aug. 14, just $121 million had been spent, according to the Journal. HHS reportedly said it will not know how the funds were used until Sept. 30 when the fiscal year ends.
Another $5.7 billion was allocated for government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to HHS, $1.62 billion of those funds have been committed to the agencies. More than $8 billion is set aside to be spent at the discretion of HHS, the majority of which has yet to be distributed, according to the Journal.
“No health department or state can cry poor during this health crisis,” Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s not a matter of more money. It’s a matter of using the money that has already been given to counties and states effectively.”
Several Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a letter directly to President Trump in late July looking for answers as to why the funds remained unused.
“In April, Congress appropriated $25 billion through the Paycheck Protections Program and Health Care Enhancement Act specifically to expand testing capacity and conduct surveillance and contact tracing to ensure we were prepared for another spike in cases,” the letter read.
“Yet based on the latest information from the Department of Health and Human Services, three months later less than half of the money provided has been obligated by the federal government and gaps in testing capacity and contact tracing are pervasive,” the Democrats wrote.
Public health officials have warned that widespread testing is needed to identify and quarantine those who test positive in order to control the pandemic.
Rising demand for coronavirus tests last month outpaced the largest commercial laboratories’ ability to turnaround test results, leading to backlogs and delays nationwide.
The amount of tests conducted has fallen through the month of August after peaking in July, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
Some health experts have said the U.S. needs to be conducting at least 4 to 5 million tests a day, a goal Trump administration officials say is impossible to achieve.
“There is no physical way to do 5 million tests per day in this country,” HHS Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir said last week, adding: “everything that can possibly be done has been done.”
Giroir estimated there were about 25 million tests conducted in July and anticipates there will be 90 million tests made available next month, according to the Journal.
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