White House says new funds needed for boosters, existing money difficult to repurpose

Senate Republicans have pushed to repurpose existing funding

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,  said Sunday that the administration 'ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that's not out the door yet.'  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday that the administration 'ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that's not out the door yet.' (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 21, 2022 at 6:11pm

The White House said Monday that it has about $300 billion in unspent COVID-19 funding but only about $60 billion that is unallocated as it warned lawmakers that it doesn’t have enough money for additional vaccination efforts unless Congress provides more relief. 

The administration again requested that Congress provide $22.5 billion in supplemental COVID-19 aid without offsets. It said it would be difficult and controversial to repurpose the $60 billion.

Senate Republicans have pushed to repurpose existing funding. 

A senior official said in a briefing that the administration only has funding left to cover a fourth dose for immunocompromised individuals. The official said the administration has secured the purchase of vaccines for children up to 5 years of age in anticipation of a vaccine being authorized for use. 

Pfizer applied for an emergency use authorization for a second COVID-19 booster shot for adults 65 and older, and Moderna filed an EUA for a second booster for adults 18 or older, both this month. 

The Food and Drug Administration announced a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on April 6 to discuss additional boosters.

The senior official said those booster doses would not have funding to be purchased and distributed. Two officials briefed reporters on condition they not be identified.

The House is working on a supplemental funding bill but hasn’t agreed on offsets. House Democrats dropped a planned vote on the bill March 9 and haven’t yet scheduled a new one. 

The same official said administration officials have held over three dozen calls and meetings with lawmakers on the relief request since Jan. 11, held 10 briefings with committees on the need for additional funding, and written over 12 times to Congress with tables on the consequences of not receiving additional funds.

According to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call, 93 percent of legally available funds from the $1.9 trillion 2021 relief law are obligated or allocated to specific groups.

Of the unspent $300 billion provided by the law, the officials said $240 billion is fully and publicly allocated, including $105 billion for a second batch of relief for cities, counties and states, and money reserved for child tax credits. It includes emergency funds for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief, veterans medical care, small business loans and emergency housing vouchers.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md, said last week that lawmakers were looking at other previously appropriated pandemic funding that could be reallocated to pay for the $15.6 billion package lawmakers had agreed on.

The White House is urging Congress to pass the supplemental package without offsets, as it did with bipartisan support early in the pandemic.

But Republicans are unlikely to back any COVID aid package without sufficient offsets.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, said offsets would be a requirement to back more COVID-19 aid.

"Last year, the Congress passed a $2 trillion package allegedly for COVID, and it passed on an entirely partisan basis. Much of that money has yet to be spent,” he said. “We're willing to listen to the case that we need to spend more money on COVID, but they ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that's not out the door yet.  So let's take a look at how to pay for it.  And then we'll be happy to decide whether or not to support it."

David Lerman contributed to this report.