Lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled more than $8 billion in emergency funding to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus, as the death toll from the outbreak in the United States from the outbreak rose to 11 people.
The House was expected to take up the supplemental spending proposal for a vote later in the day. Senate leaders hope to vote on the plan soon afterward.
“Our goal would be to do it this week if we get cooperation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.
The $8.3 billion plan for the emergency was revealed as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 129 cases of coronavirus had been identified in the U.S. California on Wednesday reported the first death in that state from the virus. The other 10 deaths occurred in Washington state.
The congressional spending proposal is more than three times the $2.5 billion the White House proposed last week devoting to the coronavirus effort.
“This should not be about politics; this is about doing our job to protect the American people from a potential pandemic,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., as he announced the deal in a press release after days of negotiations on Capitol Hill.
“We worked together to craft an aggressive and comprehensive response that provides the resources the experts say they need to combat this crisis,” Shelby said.
“I thank my colleagues for their cooperation and appreciate President [Donald] Trump’s eagerness to sign this legislation and get the funding out the door without delay.”
A House Democratic aide told CNBC that the proposal includes:
- More than $3 billion dedicated to the research and development of vaccines, as well as therapeutics and diagnostics;
- $2.2 billion in public health funding to aid in prevention, preparedness and response efforts — including $950 million to support state and local agencies;
- Nearly $1 billion to go toward medical supplies, health-care preparedness, Community Health Centers and medical surge capacity, and
- $1.25 billion to address the coronavirus overseas.
The plan also allows an estimated $7 billion in low-interest Small Business Administration loans to affected small businesses, the aide told CNBC.
The House aide added that the emergency bill provides more than $300 million to “help ensure that, when a vaccine is developed, Americans can receive it regardless of their ability to pay.”
The question of affordability has reportedly been a sticking point in negotiations.
And Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar came under fire last week after declining to guarantee to lawmakers that a vaccine would be affordable for all.
Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also had criticized the Trump administration’s original emergency funding proposal as inadequate.
But Trump had said he was not opposed to spending more than what his administration initially suggested.
“This isn’t about political advantage. We’re all trying to do the right thing,” Trump said last week. “They shouldn’t be saying, ‘This is terrible. President Trump isn’t asking for enough money.’”
“If they want to give us more money, that’s okay; we’ll take more money,” Trump said. “Some Republicans think we should have more money too. That’s okay. We’ll take more money.”
The novel strain of coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, has roiled markets and led governments to take drastic actions as it rapidly spreads across the globe.
The virus has killed more than 3,100 people and infected tens of thousands more around the world, prompting fears that a pandemic is imminent.
SOURCE : https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/04/lawmakers-strike-deal-on-more-than-7-billion-in-emergency-coronavirus-funding.html