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White House asks Congress for more money to fight the pandemic

TMJ4's Charles Benson talks with Congressman Steil and a White House Covid-19 Response Team doctor about the impasse.
Posted at 8:20 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 21:20:53-04

Covid cases in Wisconsin are at new lows for the year, but that doesn't mean the pandemic is over.

The White House says more money is needed to fight the virus and warns without additional funding it faces tough decisions.

"We're going to be have to cut back on our number of monoclonal antibodies that we're sending to the states like 30% starting this week if we don't have the resources to buy more," said Dr Cameron Webb, Senior Policy Advisor for Equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

The Biden Administration wants Congress to drop another $22.5 billion for future testing, treatments and booster shots.

TMJ4's Charles Benson talked with Dr. Webb Tuesday about the funding request.

Benson: What's changed, why is there now this urgent need for more funding?
Dr. Webb: I think the need is urgent because Congress hasn't yet acted to fund it. This is a request that's been in front of Congress at least since January.

Finding the funding has been a challenge on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats pulled out $15 billion in Covid funding from a bigger spending bill this month after failing to reach a bipartisan agreement with Republicans.

"There are going to be areas that we need to spend additional funds on but I don't think we need new money," said Congressman Bryan Steil.

The Janesville Republican says there is enough Covid relief money in the pipeline that was previously allocated but not spent. Steil says those dollars could be redirected to cover future Covid costs.

Benson: Where are those dollars and how do you get those dollars, where you need them to be?
Rep. Steil: Congress has the ability to go back and claw back a lot of the funding that's been sent out. Congress passed $5.8.trillion in spending about $600 billion of that has not even been allocated, let alone spent.

The White House does not see that as a viable option.

"I think that if we had that money to move around, we would be moving it. And our assessment is that we need this additional funding in order to meet the needs of the American public," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Dr. Webb worries if there is another surge in Covid cases the government won't be able to buy enough booster shots or provide critical support to states.

"This is the core parts of the response, this is tests, treatments and vaccines, said Dr Webb, the core elements that are keeping people alive."

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