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White House warns Congress about potential disruptions to Covid response

The latest warning, which will be issued in a letter on Tuesday, marks an escalation in pressure from Biden administration ahead of key funding deadlines. Additional funding for federal Covid-19 efforts was initially included in a recent massive omnibus spending package, but it was stripped out following Democratic complaints about how the spending would be offset.

“Today, the White House will notify congressional leadership of the steps it will begin taking to stop critical Covid response efforts because Congress has not yet provided the funding requested by mid-March,” a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.

Administration officials have recently been warning of “severe consequences” for Covid-19 response amid uncertainty for the legislative path forward for additional funding.

The Biden administration requested $22.5 billion in supplemental Covid-19 relief funding in the massive government funding package, known as the omnibus. Negotiators had proposed a scaled-back $15.6 billion for Covid relief, but following pushback on both sides of the aisle, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Covid provisions would be stripped from the funding bill, which passed late last week. House Democrats have introduced a standalone Covid relief bill, but it does not currently have the votes to pass both chambers.

Last week, a White House official said, “Without additional COVID response resources, the results are dire: In March, testing capacity will decline; in April, the uninsured fund — which offers coverage of testing and treatments for tens of millions of Americans who lack health insurance — will run out of money; and in May, America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies will run out.”

And on Monday, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told America’s Health Insurance Plans national conference on health policy and government health programs that “additional funds are necessary in the very near future to avoid disruptions to ongoing Covid response efforts.”

Should Congress fail to act, Zients added, “it would result in severe consequences” for efforts toward treatment, testing, vaccines, efforts to help deliver more vaccines globally and fight future variants — all key to President Joe Biden’s national preparedness plan for the next state of the pandemic outlined earlier this month.

Senior White House and administration officials — including Zients, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra — have held over three dozen calls and meetings with bipartisan members of Congress to warn of the consequences of running out of Covid response funding, the source said Tuesday. There have also been at least 10 briefings on the matter since January 11.

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