House, Senate negotiators reach deal on emergency coronavirus funding
House and Senate negotiators have come to an agreement on an emergency funding bill to combat the coronavirus.
The Trump administration had asked for $1.25 billion in new money for federal agencies to combat the spread of the virus, but congressional negotiators were able to come up with $7.8 billion, which will include funding for diagnostic testing, vaccine development, and additional resources for state and local responders.
According to a news release from the offices of Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia will receive $13.3 million in federal funding from the CDC to cover some of the costs of preparing for the public health emergency.
States and localities will also be able to apply for further federal funds to reimburse for the costs of detecting, tracking and controlling the spread of the virus. The bill also sets aside $350 million that will be available to local authorities if our region gets hit by an outbreak – as well as $500 million for masks, medication, protective equipment and other much-needed medical supplies that will be distributed directly to hospitals and local providers.
“We will continue to work with state and local health officials to ensure that the Commonwealth is getting the federal support it needs to prepare for coronavirus, and we encourage all Virginians to heed the warnings of public health professionals to protect against its spread,” the senators said in a joint statement.
The agreement also includes language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which cuts restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.
In January, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the administration to redirect available public health funds to combat the virus and to inform Congress of any additional resources needed to respond to the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence – who has been tasked with coordinating the federal government’s coronavirus response – Sen. Warner expressed concern over how the U.S. government has mobilized to combat the outbreak of coronavirus, and urged the Vice President to devote the resources, expertise and manpower needed to prevent this virus from spreading while also improving the government’s communication with Congress and the American public.
This week, Sen. Kaine joined letters calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to provide details on their Departments’ plans for preparedness and response efforts to protect the safety and health of students, teachers, school staff, and workers in light of the emerging threat of the novel coronavirus.
Draft text of the emergency funding bill is available here.
The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation before the end of this week.