White House Offers Lower COVID Relief Cost — GOP Still Not Buying

White House Offers Lower COVID Relief Cost --- GOP Still Not Buying

(RightWing.org) – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress authorized trillions of dollars in spending to combat the virus and aid American livelihoods harmed due to shutdowns. In 2020, Congress appropriated approximately $4 trillion. In 2021, Democrats passed another party-line COVID relief bill for $1.9 trillion.

Over the last month, states began rolling back pandemic mandates. Indoor masking and social distancing requirements are no longer a part of the plan, even in Democratic-led states. Recently, President Joe Biden said it was time to begin moving forward and learn how to live with COVID-19. Yet, the Biden administration says it wants more pandemic money.

Biden Wants Billions of Dollars More in COVID Money

On Wednesday, March 2, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asking for more COVID money. Congress has yet to pass the fiscal year 2022 budget that was due last September. Every few months, the House and Senate pass a temporary spending measure that keeps the government from shutting down.

Initially, the White House believed it needed $30 billion for additional COVID relief. Young wrote that the government now needs $18.25 billion for domestic COVID spending and $4.25 billion for overseas COVID funding, for a total of only $22.5 billion, plus an additional amount for other things that would increase the total request to $32.5 billion. For COVID relief, that’s a lower cost of $7.5 billion. The acting OMB director wrote that she hoped Congress would include the amounts in the upcoming budget discussions and negotiations as the March 11 deadline to pass a continuing budget resolution approaches.

So, what does Young say the government needs the money for? She says some would reimburse health care providers for providing COVID tests and treatments for the uninsured, which will run out of money in April or May. In addition, monies provided would cover government purchases of oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies and the purchase of more vaccines for future variants, on top of other priorities.

GOP Wants to Know How Previous Dollars Were Spent

After learning of Young’s letter, 36 Senators wrote Biden with serious concerns. First, they want to know how the first $6 trillion that passed in 2020 and 2021 was spent They have specific questions about how the American Rescue Act dollars were spent, or not spent. They say there must be a full accounting before they will consider additional funding.

The GOP says several questions must be answered before they would agree to an increase:

  1. What is the specific purpose of additional funding?
  2. How much of the money authorized under the American Rescue Act remains unspent?
  3. How much money was spent on vaccines and testing?
  4. Will the administration make COVID-19 spending available to the public through real-time data?

In an evenly divided Senate, at least 10 Republicans must agree to spending levels to pass a continuing resolution. If the GOP holds out and Democrats buck them, it could cause a government shutdown. Many believe it’s unlikely that Democrats would be willing to go that far in an election year.

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