White House Requests $47 Billion for Pandemic Response and Ukraine Aid
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday formally requested $47.1 billion in emergency spending from Congress, including almost $27 billion that officials say is critical to continue fighting the coronavirus pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak.
The administration is also asking for $13.7 billion in additional aid for Ukraine and $6.5 billion to respond to natural disasters.
The request comes as lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to finish annual funding bills for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. Shalanda D. Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Congress was unlikely to meet that deadline but should consider the emergency requests as part of a temporary, short-term spending measure before government funding expires at the end of the month.
If lawmakers do not reach agreement on either the annual spending bills or a stopgap funding measure, large parts of the federal government will shut down — a politically damaging outcome weeks before midterm elections that will determine which party controls Congress.
Ms. Young said in a statement on Friday that the coronavirus money would be used to continue to provide free tests to the public, accelerate vaccine research and support the global pandemic response. “This funding is vital to our ability to protect and build on the progress we’ve made,” she said.
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That request is likely to meet significant resistance in Congress. Republicans have repeatedly blocked previous efforts to pass additional coronavirus funding, arguing that the administration has not used all the money that Congress already provided for pandemic relief.
Budget officials disputed that on Friday, telling reporters that money was running out for key Covid-19 programs. The administration said this week that it would stop providing free coronavirus tests through the U.S. Postal Service because of a lack of funding.
A message on the federal website Covid.gov said that “ordering through the free at-home test program was suspended on Friday, Sept. 2, because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests.”
Budget officials said that while new coronavirus booster shots that were approved this week would remain free of charge through the beginning of next year, more cutbacks would be necessary without additional funding.
The monkeypox request would allow the federal government to purchase vaccines and therapies for distribution across the United States, to support testing to determine the spread of the virus and to conduct research on rapid tests and new vaccines, administration officials said.
Late last month, officials said that the number of monkeypox cases appeared to be declining somewhat. But there have been almost 20,000 cases in the United States during this year’s outbreak, which was declared a health emergency last month.
“We cannot let up until we end the current outbreak and are prepared for future monkeypox or smallpox outbreaks,” Ms. Young said in her statement on Friday.
As part of the Ukraine funding request, $7.2 billion would be used to give new weapons and military equipment to the country, replenish U.S. stockpiles and provide other defense-related support, administration officials said. Another $4.5 billion would directly support the Ukrainian government, and $2 billion would be used to offset effects on energy supplies from Russia’s invasion.
The Biden administration is likely to have a receptive audience for its Ukraine request. In May, Congress approved $40 billion to help Ukraine fight against the Russian invasion. With some exceptions, aid for Ukraine has received enthusiastic bipartisan support.
Lawmakers have also been supportive of emergency requests for responding to disasters. The administration said it needed $6.5 billion for that purpose, including $2.9 billion for the disaster relief fund at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $1.4 billion to address recovery needs after major disasters in California, Louisiana and Texas last year. The request also includes $1.5 billion for the Agriculture Department to help farmers who were affected by drought and wildfires.
Lawmakers have been away from the Capitol for the August recess, but devising a plan to keep the government funded will be a pressing task for them when they return to Washington. The Senate is scheduled to return to session next week, and the House is set to return the following week.