The Biden administration is calling on Congress to include additional funding in the must-pass government package for what it said are three “critical funding needs”: Continued support for the people of Ukraine, Covid-19 response and natural disaster recovery.
Congress returned for a lame duck session on Monday and has a short work period in which to pass a critical bill to fund the government by December 16.
Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi detailing a $37.7 billion request for Ukraine aid, $10 billion for Covid-19 and an unspecified amount for disaster relief with an estimated expected “as soon as possible.”
The $37.7 billion Ukraine request is spread across four US government departments, according to a fact sheet shared with CNN. Young wrote to Pelosi that the request would “ensure Ukraine has the funding, weapons, and support it needs to defend itself, and that vulnerable people continue to receive lifesaving aid. The request also addresses the critical global food and energy shortages caused by Russia’s invasion.”
It includes $21.7 for the Department of Defense that will be spent on “equipment for Ukraine, replenishment of Department of Defense stocks, and for continued military, intelligence and other defense support,” $14.5 billion for the State Department for “direct budget support to Ukraine, critical war time investments, security assistance, to strengthen global food security, and for humanitarian assistance,” $626 million for the Department of Energy “for nuclear security support to Ukraine and for modernizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and $900 million for the Department of Health and Human Services “to provide standard assistance health care and support services to Ukrainian parolees,” per the fact sheet.
A senior administration official told reporters that previous aid for Ukraine “was always intended to last only through the end of this calendar year,” with Young writing to Pelosi that “roughly three-quarters of the funds previously provided by the Congress have been disbursed or committed, with even more expected by the end of the year.”
The request comes as President Joe Biden is gathering with world leaders at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, where most of the world leaders in attendance are expected to sign on to a statement condemning Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. It also comes as Ukraine has made key gains in Kherson, where Ukrainian residents had been living under brutal Russian occupation for eight months until Friday, when Ukrainian forces swept into the city and Russian troops retreated to the east.
The request, the senior official said, is “intended to last through the end of this fiscal year,” which ends September 30.
The Biden administration’s $10 billion request for funding for Covid-19 response reflects a paring down from an original $22.5 billion request submitted earlier this year that has gone unfulfilled.
Young said that the need for funding is “urgent” and it comes as the White House is renewing its push to get Americans vaccinated heading into the holiday season.
“While Covid-19 is no longer the disruptive force it was when the President took office; we face the emergence of new subvariants in the United States and around the world that have the potential to cause a surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. We know how to manage this moment, but as the Administration has long made clear… we need additional resources to ensure that we have the necessary services and supplies to keep the American people safe,” she wrote, warning that a failure to fund this request “would lead to needless infections and deaths across the Nation and around the world.”
The $10 billion request includes $2.5 million “to ensure continued access to vaccines and therapeutics (including for the uninsured) as we transition to commercialization of vaccines and therapeutics, and for Strategic National Stockpile maintenance costs,” $5 billion for “development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics,” $750 million for Long Covid research and treatment, and $1 billion in funding for the State Department to “provide support to prevent, detect, and respond to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, including through vaccines, tests, and treatments, and through efforts to close gaps in routine immunizations.”
That request also includes $400 million “to restore smallpox vaccines used for monkeypox response,” and $350 million “to begin the procurement and distribution of treatment for hepatitis C and pre-exposure prophylaxis to help prevent HIV,” with a senior official telling reporters that “this is an opportune moment for us to step up our efforts to combat other preventable and treatable diseases.”
Previous efforts toward passing Covid-19 funding for vaccines, testing, and treatments this spring and summer have failed. The White House requested $22.5 billion in funding for the administration’s Covid-19 response earlier this year, and sent an updated $22.4 billion request in September.
Officials have repeatedly warned of the consequences of not passing this funding as it takes steps toward moving the Covid-19 response to the commercial market, highlighting “unacceptable tradeoffs” in US response.
Natural disaster response
The administration is also asking for a to-be-announced sum of money to help with disaster recovery efforts in the aftermath of storms like Hurricane Ian in Florida and Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.
“We must fund critical disaster response and rebuilding efforts in Florida, Puerto Rico, and other communities across America that have faced severe flooding, wildfires, drought, and extreme heat over the past year,” Young wrote to Pelosi.
Officials sought to make the case that Tuesday’s request should be approved on a bipartisan basis, although it’s still unclear whether these priorities will be able to garner the Republican support needed to pass in the Senate.
“We hope and expect this funding request will earn bipartisan support. There’s nothing partisan about protecting the American people from Covid, supporting Ukraine, or standing with communities recovering from natural disasters. These are shared responsibilities that can bring both parties together. And over the next few weeks, we’re committed to working with Congress to secure a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and meet these urgent needs on behalf of the American people,” the senior official said.