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White House asks Congress for $47 billion for COVID, Ukraine, monkeypox, natural disasters

(WASHINGTON) — The White House is seeking $47 billion from Congress to secure COVID and monkeypox vaccines, to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and to respond to natural disasters at home.

“All of the requests in here meet urgent funding needs,” an administration official told reporters Friday. “It is our responsibility to tell Congress what we need in order to meet these critical needs. These have had bipartisan support in the past, and we fully expect Congress to work with us to reach a resolution on all of them.”

The funding would be tied to a constituting resolution to keep the government running past Sept. 30. Biden officials said the requests are for the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, which would span from October to December of this year.

But their request is likely to be met with resistance on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are generally opposed to any additional emergency and Democrats for months have pushed to no avail for supplemental COVID funding that they say is necessary to combatting the virus.

Most of the money would go toward combating the COVID pandemic, with the White House asking lawmakers for $22.4 billion for vaccines, treatments and personal protective equipment (PPE). That sum would also fund “next-generation” research, the administration said, and provide services like treatments for “long COVID.”

On Friday, the federal government’s free program for Americans to order at-home COVID tests was suspended due to a lack of funding. More than 600 millions tests have been sent to families free of charge since the program began in January.

To tackle the monkeypox crisis, the administration is requesting $4.5 billion to expand domestic manufacturing of vaccines, to develop rapid tests, support health activities and more.

The administration has faced criticism for its response to the monkeypox outbreak, with public experts saying the U.S. should have moved faster to distribute tests and vaccines. As of Sept. 1, there were 19,465 total confirmed monkeypox/orthopoxvirus cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This funding will also help ensure the United States is at the front of the line for the best tools to fight any possible future outbreak,” the administration said.

Beyond the administration’s public health efforts, the second largest chunk of the money the White House is requesting would go toward Ukraine.

The administration is seeking $13.7 billion to provide Ukraine with military equipment and intelligence gathering, as well as direct budget assistance to the nation’s government. That funding also includes $2 million for energy-related issues stemming from the conflict.

“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,” the administration said. “The people of Ukraine have inspired the world, and the Administration remains committed to supporting the Ukrainian people as they continue to stand resolute and display extraordinary courage in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion.”

To combat natural disasters in the U.S., which faces record heat and devastating flooding, the White House is asking for $6.5 billion to go toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund; direct payments for farmers; to local governments to strengthen their eclectic grids and more.

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