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White House says administration is out of money for Covid testing, treatment and vaccines without new funding

Congress has been embroiled in a months-long stalemate over new funding to fight the pandemic, with House Democrats stripping additional Covid-relief money from a government funding bill earlier this month at the 11th hour after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were unable to reach an agreement on how to offset the new spending.

According to an administration official, the White House has secured funding to vaccinate children under 5 years old and offer a fourth booster shot to the immunocompromised. Beyond that, however, any other measures would require additional approval from Congress.

The White House says that, of the American Rescue Plan’s $1.9 trillion in funding, just $300 billion remains unobligated, $240 billion of which has been allocated for cities and states already. The remaining funding — approximately $60 billion — is left for use for a specific emergency use by agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Republican lawmakers have said they’ll oppose additional funding to fight the pandemic without guaranteed offsets, a demand one senior administration official told reporters was disingenuous, given previous votes to secure emergency funding under the Trump administration that did not have earmarked offset funding.

But the White House is warning lawmakers that, absent more relief funds, there won’t be sufficient money to subsidize a number of Covid mitigation steps, including programs that provide resources for vaccinations, reimburse providers and insurers for out-of-network treatment, underwrite Covid testing and supply personal protective equipment.

The White House has spent much of the last several weeks amping up its warnings that aspects of the federal Covid-19 response will be curtailed if new funding is not approved, with administration officials speaking in dire terms in a call with reporters last week.

Among the warnings on that call were that there is not enough money to purchase booster shots for all Americans if another dose is required; domestic testing capability will decrease; the purchase of monoclonal antibody treatments and preventative treatment for immunocompromised individuals will be significantly scaled back; sending vaccines to the rest of the world will be affected; and major effects would be seen on research and development on Covid treatments.

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