Congressional Negotiators Strike Deal on $8.3 Billion to Fight the Coronavirus

March 4, 2020 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Capitol. Feb. 4, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – Congressional negotiators have reached an agreement to provide $8.3 billion in funding to combat the growing coronavirus outbreak.

The full House is scheduled to consider the funding bill, H.R. 6074 – Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 – under suspension of its rules later Wednesday afternoon.

The deal was negotiated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R- Ala.,  and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

The funding package is three times the $2.5 billion initially requested by the White House.

“This should not be about politics. This is about doing our job to protect the American people from a potential pandemic. 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.

“The American people are counting on our government for a fully-funded, coordinated, and comprehensive government-wide response to the coronavirus,” Rep. Lowey said in a written statement.

“House Democrats’ emergency supplemental consists of robust, entirely new funding and strong transparency and accountability measures to fully address the virus and keep Americans safe from this growing public health emergency. We must quickly enact this legislation—lives are at stake,” she said.

The bill that will be considered on the House floor includes more than $3 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

Included within that is $300 million specifically for purchasing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

The deal also provides $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including providing each state a grant of at least $4 million to respond and prepare for the coronavirus.

It would also provide $1.25 billion to the State Department and USAID including providing money for evacuations and humanitarian assistance.

The National Institutes of Health will receive $836 million under the agreement.

To protect public health, the bill will allow Medicare providers to extend telemedicine services to seniors regardless of where they live, at an estimated cost of $500 million. The bill also allows an estimated $7 billion in low-interest SBA loans to small businesses impacted by this epidemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that “Americans urgently need a coordinated, fully-funded, whole-of-government response to keep us safe from the widening coronavirus epidemic.  We can do that now because today we reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on an emergency coronavirus response funding package.”

Pelosi went on to say, “The House will now move swiftly to pass this vital coronavirus emergency response package.” 

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