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WH sees immediate cuts to COVID-19 response without more funds

Officials say the impact will be felt by the end of March

The administration warned Tuesday that if another COVID-19 booster becomes necessary, it would need supplemental funding to provide one to all Americans.
The administration warned Tuesday that if another COVID-19 booster becomes necessary, it would need supplemental funding to provide one to all Americans. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House said it is preparing to make cuts to the country’s COVID-19 response effort if Congress doesn’t provide additional funds to deal with the pandemic, warning that the U.S. is running out of money to test, treat and vaccinate Americans against the virus.

As parts of Europe and Asia experience virus spikes and scientists monitor for a similar surge in the U.S., senior administration officials said Tuesday the Health and Human Services Department and the National Institutes of Health won’t be able to research and develop next-generation vaccines that protect against multiple variants without more funds. The officials also said the government needs more money to conduct genomic surveillance of potential new variants and to purchase enough doses for all Americans if a fourth COVID-19 shot is needed.

“Time is not on our side. We need the funding immediately,” one of the senior officials said. The officials can’t be identified under the terms of the call with reporters. 

The White House requested $22.5 billion from Congress for supplemental COVID-19 aid, but House lawmakers are now working on a bill that would provide $15.6 billion. The aid was stripped out of the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending measure cleared last week because of a disagreement over where the money should come from. 

The administration must cut state allocations to monoclonal antibody treatments by 30 percent beginning next week to extend the supply, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House on Tuesday. The government has no more funds to buy additional monoclonal antibody treatments, including a planned order for March 25, and supply will run out by May without more funds.

The fact sheet also said it could soon become more difficult for uninsured individuals to access COVID-19 resources. The Uninsured Program will stop accepting new claims for testing and treatment on March 22 due to lack of funds and providers will no longer be able to submit claims for providing COVID-19 tests and treatments to uninsured individuals. The Uninsured Program will stop accepting vaccination claims on April 5 due to a lack of funds.

Domestic COVID-19 testing capacity will run out in June without more funds, the White House said. 

The White House plans to send a letter to lawmakers Tuesday outlining the planned cutbacks in an attempt to pressure Congress to act quickly and fully fund the request. Senate Republicans have so far said the White House’s COVID-19 request should be fully paid for, but some House Democrats objected to using state aid for offsets.

The administration officials did not outline a clear path forward and said they’d let lawmakers figure out the details.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday she hopes the House will vote on the funding this week.

Pfizer submitted a request to the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to authorize a second booster of its COVID-19 shot for people 65 and older to combat waning immunity.

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