Jacob Fischler, Georgia Recorder
The Biden administration is asking Congress for emergency funding to support Ukraine’s military, national COVID and monkeypox responses and to help communities affected by natural disasters.
The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and Congress has not passed a funding measure for next year, so a short-term bill would be needed to keep the government open at current levels, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote in a blog post on Friday. The White House wants Congress to add $47.1 billion in emergency funding in four key areas.
“With one month until the end of the fiscal year, it’s clear that Congress will first need to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the Federal government running and provide the time needed to reach an agreement on full-year funding bills,” she wrote.
“As part of the CR, we are also calling on Congress to provide funding to meet four critical needs: support for Ukraine, COVID-19, monkeypox, and natural disaster recovery.”
The administration asked for $18.4 billion for the Health and Human Services Department to respond to the COVID pandemic, including $9.1 billion for vaccines effective against variants, testing programs and therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies.
The funding would be necessary to replenish testing stockpiles that are not currently sufficient to respond to a potential fall surge, an administration official told reporters on a Friday background call.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked previous requests from the administration for more COVID funding. The administration says that has hurt its response to the pandemic.
“We requested that Congress provide supplemental COVID-19 funding and repeatedly warned that without congressional action, we would be forced to make difficult trade-offs and pull existing funding from critical efforts to meet the most pressing needs,” Young wrote. “That is precisely what has happened.”
A lack of funding forced the administration to stop sending free at-home COVID tests, she wrote. Friday is the last day to request a free test.
Other HHS funding would go to researching next-generation vaccines and therapeutics.
The White House also requested $4 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to support international efforts to respond to the virus.
The request includes $3.9 billion for HHS to respond to the monkeypox outbreak, including $1.6 billion for vaccine and therapeutics procurement and manufacturing. The request would send $600 million to overseas responses.
The administration also called for $11.7 billion for military and economic assistance to Ukraine in its war with Russia and $2 billion for domestic energy programs that have been affected by the conflict.
Earlier support for Ukraine was intended to last through September, according to a White House fact sheet.
The additional funding would be meant to cover the next three months. It would include $4.5 billion for military equipment for Ukraine and replenishing U.S. Defense Department stocks and $4.5 billion to support Ukraine’s “continuity of government.”
The administration also asked for $2 billion for the Energy Department. Most of that fund would be for uranium for U.S. nuclear reactors to make up for a potential loss in Russian supplies, according to the fact sheet.
The request would send $500 million to the Energy Department to modernize the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a complex of underground storage caverns in Louisiana and Texas meant to provide an emergency source of energy. The funding would “reduce domestic energy costs and ensure sustainable access to energy resources,” according to the fact sheet.
Biden tapped the reserve earlier this year in an effort to curb rapidly climbing gasoline prices.
The administration also called for $6.5 billion to help rebuild from disasters and to build resilience to wildfire, drought, flood and extreme heat.
The funding request includes $2.9 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief funds that are sent to state and local governments to rebuild after disasters strike.
It also includes $1.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to compensate farmers who lost crops or livestock to disaster and $1.4 billion for the Housing and Urban Development to rebuild from major 2021 disasters, including in Louisiana, Texas and California.
The request includes $150 million for states, local governments and tribes to bolster the resilience of their electric grids, which can falter during extreme heat and other disasters.
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