White House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report
The White House is reportedly preparing to ask Congress for emergency funds to help the administration fight the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has infected almost 80,000 people around the world and accounted for more than 2,000 deaths.
The formal request may be around $1 billion, two individuals with knowledge of the matter told Politico. The sum would be drastically lower than what some public health officials view as sufficient and could be used up quickly from the development of vaccines and widespread lab tests, Politico noted.
A White House official acknowledged to the news outlet that the request is still in its preliminary stages and that the amount is subject to change. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to more than two dozen countries. The impacts have been most pronounced in China, which has reported the vast majority of the infections and deaths stemming from the virus.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in countries such as South Korea and Italy over the past week, reaching more than 600 and 132 infections, respectively. The U.S. has confirmed 35 cases of the coronavirus, according to a database kept by Johns Hopkins University. A majority of the people infected in the country were flown back to the U.S. after contracting the virus abroad.
A group of Senate Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), last week sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging the administration to request emergency funds to fight the spread of the virus.
“We strongly urge the Administration to transmit an emergency supplemental request that ensures it can and will fully reimburse states for the costs they are incurring as part of this response — including costs associated with the enactment of travel screening and quarantine policies laid out by the Federal government,” the senators said.
The administration has so far relied on $105 million set aside for HHS to respond to infectious disease outbreaks. HHS said in early February that it may need to transfer an additional $136 million to key agencies responding to the coronavirus.
Around that time, Azar said that it was “premature” to ask for any additional needs for emergency funding. He contended that state and local governments have “significant” federal funding to respond to outbreaks.