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The Biden administration is seeking $30 billion in additional funds from Congress to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to bolster vaccines, treatments, testing supply and research, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The $30 billion request includes $17.9 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, two sources familiar with it said.
Administration officials and congressional staff have been in talks about the issue, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.
“HHS leaders regularly engage with Congress about COVID resources, and in a Tuesday conversation with congressional staff, HHS discussed the status of COVID response funds as well as the need for additional resources to support securing more life-saving treatments and vaccines, sustaining testing capacity, and investing in research and development of next-generation vaccines,” the spokesperson said.
“These resources would help us continue expanding the tools the country needs to stay ahead of the virus and help us move toward the time when COVID-19 will not disrupt our daily lives.”
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, secured a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” last year to fight the pandemic. But the Delta and Omicron variants, coupled with ongoing vaccine hesitancy among a portion of the US population, has fuelled coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths nationwide.
The White House is eager to show progress on the pandemic ahead of the November midterm elections, in which Republicans hope to take over control of the House of Representatives and the Senate; Democrats have a slim majority in the House and control the 50-50 Senate now.
The administration may face opposition from Republicans and even some Democrats who are wary of approving additional funding.
Biden is also struggling to pass pieces of his Build Back Better climate and social spending bill, which has stalled in the Senate because of opposition from moderate members of his own party.