Feb. 25 (UPI) — The Trump administration will ask Congress for at least $2.5 billion in additional funding to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the White House announced Monday.
The request will seek a single lump sum to allow the Department of Health Services “maximum flexibility” and will include at least $1 billion for vaccine development.
“The Trump administration continues to take the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease very seriously,” White House Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said. “Today, the administration is transmitting to Congress a $2.5 billion supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much-needed equipment and supplies.”
Earlier Monday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News the administration was preparing an urgent budget request.
“We need some funding here to make sure that we protect all Americans,” said Gidley. “We need to combat this, we need to make sure our people are safe, and the president is always going to take action to do that.”
The request comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there were 53 cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Monday as the number of cases increased when infected passengers were brought back to the country from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said they had urged the administration weeks ago to submit an emergency supplemental funding request.
“Since then, new cases and deaths around the world have significantly worsened and we have still not received crucial information as to what funding [Health and Human Services] has allocated to emergency response activities or how quickly they expect funding.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien are leading a task force on coronavirus response.
Azar will appear before several House committees this week to answer questions about his budget after saying he “won’t let resources be any kind of barrier to response activities.”