NEWS

Is COVID-19 Funding in the U.S. Going Away?

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in the U.S. Capitol’s House Chamber on March 1, 2022.

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Key Takeaways

  • Congress is holding off on the White House’s request for additional COVID-19 funding for now. This funding would cover initiatives like COVID-19 testing, vaccine manufacturing, and treatment manufacturing.
  • Health policy experts are anxious that the funding could be denied or delayed. 
  • If Congress fails to provide further funding, the Department of Health and Human Services might have to redirect funds intended for other purposes for COVID spending.

Federal funding for urgent COVID-19 spending, like Biden’s proposed “test-to-treat” program touted during his State of the Union address, may dry up in the coming weeks.

Congress has turned down a White House request for billions of dollars in additional COVID-19-related funds. Health policy analysts say they don’t know if Congress will budge.

What Is Funding Needed For? 

In a March 15 call with reporters, the White House said it alerted Congress to the need for additional funds months ago. A letter from the White House Office of Management and Budget on March 2 explained that the funding request was needed to:

  • Secure a supply of oral antiviral treatments, like Pfizer’s Paxlovid
  • Purchase monoclonal antibodies and pre-exposure prevention medication (Evusheld)
  • Continue operating critical testing initiatives
  • Fund testing, treatments, and vaccines for the uninsured
  • Initiate work on a next-generation vaccine that protects against future variants
  • Accelerate global vaccination efforts and provide urgent humanitarian relief

How Much Money Is Needed? 

According to The New York Times, the White House had previously asked for $22.5 billion for COVID efforts. Congress cut that amount to $15.6 billion earlier this month, planning to put the funds into a larger spending bill.

COVID funding was taken out of that bill after some members of Congress balked at the funding structure, which required states to allocate $7 billion dollars of the funding from money they already received. 

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, had hoped to introduce a standalone bill for the COVID funding, but Republican members of Congress said they will not vote on the bill until the White House explained how previous funding for COVID relief has been spent. So far, no new bill has been introduced, which means for now, no new money is forthcoming. 

Why Money for the COVID Response Still Matters

The current stalemate comes as COVID-19 cases are rising in some European countries, largely due to the Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

In the United States, wastewater surveillance shows an uptick in cases that haven’t yet been detected by COVID-19 tests.

“It’s not looking good,” Jen Kates, PhD, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, DC, told Verywell of additional funding.

Kates said that delays in funding and production have consequences. For example, last summer, companies stopped the production of rapid home tests when case counts were low, which led to a shortage when tests were needed in the winter. 

“Ramping up takes too long in an emergency, [but] it’s not in the DNA of politics to include prevention [funding],” she said.

Anand Parekh, MD, former deputy assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, agrees.

“I don't know what will happen, but what I hope will happen is a realization from Congress that we're not yet through this current pandemic,” he told Verywell. “The only way to ensure that we quickly get through is to shore up our domestic response and assist the rest of the world with vaccinations. If you have [COVID-19] symptoms, you should quickly get tested and receive on-the-spot treatment, but we have to purchase those treatments, and make sure there’s a domestic manufacturing capacity for treatment and testing. All of that requires resources.”

Parekh says more than anything, the legislation needs bipartisan agreement. If Congress ultimately fails to fund the Whie House request, “the Department of Health and Human Services would have to redirect resources.”

Congress is most likely to approve funding if the White House provides “more [information] on what has been spent and a detailed accounting,” Kates said.

What This Means For You

At the moment, COVID-19 funding in the U.S. is still in place. Vaccines, boosters, and treatments are available. Although COVID-19 cases continue to be low in most of the U.S. there are signs of an uptick elsewhere in the world. Don’t throw away your masks or tests in case they are needed in the future, when funding may not be secured.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Fact sheet: Biden administration launches nationwidetest-to-treat initiative ensuring rapid ‘on the spot’ access to lifesaving COVID treatments.