Schumer pressed on pandemic preparedness funding in meeting with advocate

Julia Nikhinson

The head of a pandemic preparedness advocacy group met with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) this week to make the case for robust funding amid fears of the money being scaled back.

Gabe Bankman-Fried, founder and director of Guarding Against Pandemics, confirmed that he met with Schumer this week, though he declined to discuss specifics of the meeting.

At issue is $30 billion aimed at helping the country prepare to fight future pandemics, which the White House proposed as part of its $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan. The Hill reported last week that the funding is at risk of being reduced to as little as $5 billion as Democrats try to fit a slew of priorities into a $3.5 trillion window for a separate package.

Bankman-Fried said in an interview that the preparedness funding is still “very up in the air.”

He said lawmakers have expressed support for the funding in theory, but are not committing to $30 billion in the forthcoming legislative package.

“In all of our outreach on the hill, what we hear is like, ‘This is great. It would be great if it happened, I truly believe that, but, you know, we’ll see,’ ” he said.

When reached for comment on the meeting, Schumer’s office pointed to a recent tweet from the senator that said: “President Trump spent years undoing our public health infrastructure, which made America underprepared for COVID. I’ve been working and I’ll keep working to make the investments needed to ensure we are fully prepared for future pandemics.”

Schumer’s office has not commented specifically on the fate of the $30 billion, or how much funding is likely to be included in the $3.5 trillion measure.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also did not provide specifics on the amount of funding at a press briefing on Wednesday. Asked if President Biden wants to preserve pandemic preparedness funding in the package, Psaki said: “He feels confident there’s going to be a historic amount of funding in the reconciliation package and is pleased to see that.”

In the House, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) is pushing for the full $30 billion.

He called it “misguided” and “myopic” for Congress to be considering cutting back on new pandemic preparedness funding during a pandemic.

“What else has to happen for the United States Congress to treat pandemics with the seriousness [they deserve]?” he asked.

Tags Charles Schumer COVID-19 Donald Trump Jen Psaki Joe Biden Pandemic pandemic preparedness funding

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