- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2022

President Biden wants more than $47 billion to help Ukraine and respond to COVID-19, monkeypox and natural disasters from Kentucky to California as Congress debates a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown before November’s midterm elections.

Administration officials said the U.S. needs $12 billion for Ukraine’s defense and economic needs and $2 billion to address the impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion on energy supply and costs.

“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,” White House budget director Shalanda Young wrote in a recent blog post. “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.”

Officials described the Ukraine funding, which would support Kyiv’s needs and economic recovery, as one plank of a four-part request to Congress to avoid “severe disruptions” to services under the short-term continuing resolution, or CR, that Congress will need to pass to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September. 

Lawmakers are eyeing a funding bill that extends through mid-December as negotiators hash out longer-term plans. Administration officials said its requests are for emergency funding without a way to offset those costs, something that is likely to raise objections from Republicans.

Mr. Biden also wants $22.4 billion to fund COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatments and maintain defenses against the virus while society gets back to normal. The request is similar to a previous request that got watered down to $10 billion in a bipartisan deal this year, only for that agreement to get stuck in a parallel fight over pandemic border rules.

White House officials said they have warned Congress repeatedly over the consequences of depleted virus funds.

“For example, the lack of additional funding has prevented us from adequately replenishing our national stockpile of at-home tests, forced us to suspend sending free tests to Americans, and leaves our domestic testing capacity diminished for a potential fall surge,” Ms. Young wrote.

The administration is requesting $3.9 billion to maintain access to vaccines, treatments and tests for monkeypox, a virus that popped up in the U.S. and dozens of other countries in the spring. The virus, which causes a painful rash but is rarely lethal, has infected more than 19,400 people in the U.S.

The final portion of the request demands $6.9 billion to cope with Mother Nature, including nearly $3 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund and additional money for crop damage, electric-grid preservation and heating needs during the winter.

“We need additional funding that supports the people of Kentucky as they recover and rebuild from recent flooding, as well as communities that have remaining unmet recovery needs as they rebuild from major disasters, including those in California, Louisiana and Texas,” Ms. Young wrote. “The request also includes funding to address wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme heat, and to increase electric grid resilience.”

Securing COVID-19 funding without offsets, in particular, will be a challenge. Republican negotiators who worked on the stalled bipartisan package were angry to see the administration repurpose other funds toward the virus after lawmakers were told that would be impossible.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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