Health Care

Funding bill includes $15B for COVID-19, less than earlier requests

Associated Press / David Dermer

The government funding bill released early Wednesday morning includes $15.6 billion to fight COVID-19, an amount lower than the Biden administration’s original requests, after a battle over the spending.

Much of the funding will go toward the purchase of additional treatment pills and monoclonal antibodies, supplies of which the administration had warned would run out without new money. Some funding, $750 million, will go toward developing vaccines to fight new variants. 

An additional $5 billion goes toward global efforts, including vaccinating people in other countries.  

The funding has been cut significantly from the Biden administration’s earlier informal request for roughly $30 billion, which was reduced to $22.5 billion in the formal request to Congress made last week.  

Republicans had resisted spending new money on COVID-19, pointing to the billions of dollars that have already been provided.  

To help pave the way for passage of the reduced amount, the funding is offset by rescinding previously appropriated funding, including $7 billion in state and local funding from the American Rescue Plan passed last year.  

Democrats on Wednesday touted the inclusion of the COVID-19 funds.  

“The agreement will invest $15.6 billion in Emergency Supplemental funding for President Biden’s COVID-19 response to protect and treat against new variants, avoid shutdowns and fight the virus abroad,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “This makes it far more likely that if and when a new variant hits, the country will be able to maintain this new normal.” 

The White House had previously acknowledged, though, that its $22.5 billion request was not enough, and that it planned to come back and ask Congress for more funding, which is likely to be a heavy lift given the fight over this round.  

The White House released a plan for fighting the next phase of COVID-19 last week, but there is not yet enough money to fully fund it.  

“While this funding request would allow us to initiate the actions outlined in the strategy, we will provide additional information about anticipated resource needs in the weeks ahead,” Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote last week.  

Advocates and some Democratic lawmakers had also pushed for $17 billion for global needs, well above the $5 billion included in the spending package, saying more was needed to vaccinate the world and help ensure a new dangerous variant does not form.  

Outside of direct COVID-19 spending, the funding bill announced on Wednesday includes almost $45 billion for the National Institutes of Health, an increase of 5.3 percent from the prior year.  

There is also $1 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects for Health, a new medical research division seeking breakthroughs against serious diseases that is a priority for President Biden.  

Tags Chuck Schumer COVID-19 Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Shalanda Young

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