WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is asking Congress to provide more than $47 billion in emergency dollars that would go toward the war in Ukraine, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing monkeypox outbreak and help for recent natural disasters in Kentucky and other states.
The request, which comes as lawmakers are preparing to return to Washington and fund the government, seeks $13.7 billion related to Ukraine, including money for equipment, intelligence support and direct budgetary support. Shalanda Young, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said that more than three-fourths of the $40 billion approved by Congress earlier this year has already been disbursed or committed.
“We have rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and we cannot allow that support to Ukraine to run dry,” Young said in a blog post.
The White House request will play into congressional budget negotiations in the coming weeks as financing for federal agencies is set to run out Sept. 30. Both parties will be seeking to avoid a government shutdown in the weeks before the midterm elections, but they will have to work out differences over issues like the COVID-19 aid, which has been a sticking point for many months as the White House has said more money is needed for vaccines and testing and Republicans have pointed to the trillions that have already been approved.
In Friday’s request, the White House is seeking $7.1 billion to procure additional vaccines and for replenishing personal protective equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile, among other measures. Another $8 billion would go to accelerate research for next-generation vaccines and therapeutics.
Biden is also seeking $2 billion to continue COVID-19 testing programs, including an initiative to distribute free at-home tests that ended on Friday as the government says it is running short on funds. White House officials say they have some tests left in the stockpile, but not enough to provide free tests if cases sharply increase.
Congress has not moved forward on similar administration requests for the COVID-19 response amid the partisan stalemate.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House has repeatedly warned that there would be trade-offs if that money wasn't approved, and “that is precisely what happened.” The lack of free testing kits, for example, “leaves our domestic testing capacity diminished for a potential fall surge," she said.
The administration is also asking for $4.5 billion to bolster its efforts to fight monkeypox amid the ongoing outbreak. Officials said they have already depleted significant reserves from the national stockpile to provide over 1.1 million vials of vaccine.
The money would help ensure access to vaccinations, testing and treatment, and also help fund the global effort to fight the disease, administration officials said.
For disaster relief, the White House is asking for $6.5 billion, including money for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, farmers affected by weather events and efforts to increase the resilience of the electric grid. As part of that request, the administration is also asking for $1.4 billion to address unmet disaster recovery needs in several states, including for recent devastating floods in Kentucky.