WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued a statement today after bipartisan Capitol Hill negotiators reached an agreement on an emergency funding bill to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19):
“After the Trump Administration initially requested just $1.25 billion in new money for federal agencies to combat the spread of the coronavirus, we’re pleased to see that congressional negotiators were able to agree on an emergency spending package totaling $7.8 billion to help prepare for and treat the spread of coronavirus – including funding for diagnostic testing, vaccine development, and additional resources for state and local responders who are on the front lines of a potential pandemic,” said the Senators. “Once this bill is signed into law, Virginia will immediately receive $13.3 million in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cover some of the costs of preparing for this public health emergency.”
“Under the terms of this bipartisan bill, states and localities will also be able to apply for further federal funds to reimburse for the costs of detecting, tracking and controlling the spread of the virus. Furthermore, this bill sets aside $350 million that will be available to local authorities if our region gets hit by an outbreak – as well as $500 million for masks, medication, protective equipment and other much-needed medical supplies that will be distributed directly to hospitals and local providers. We will continue to work with state and local health officials to ensure that the Commonwealth is getting the federal support it needs to prepare for coronavirus, and we encourage all Virginians to heed the warnings of public health professionals to protect against its spread,” concluded the Senators.
The agreement also includes language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which cuts restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.
In January, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the Administration to redirect available public health funds to combat the virus and to inform Congress of any additional resources needed to respond to the coronavirus. Earlier this week, in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence – who has been tasked with coordinating the federal government’s coronavirus response – Sen. Warner expressed concern over how the U.S. government has mobilized to combat the outbreak of coronavirus, and urged the Vice President to devote the resources, expertise and manpower needed to prevent this virus from spreading while also improving the government’s communication with Congress and the American public. This week, Sen. Kaine joined letters calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to provide details on their Departments’ plans for preparedness and response efforts to protect the safety and health of students, teachers, school staff, and workers in light of the emerging threat of the novel coronavirus.
Earlier today, the Senators urged health insurers and federal and state officials to eliminate cost burdens that could disincentivize people with coronavirus symptoms from seeking testing and treatment for the contagious illness.
Draft text of the emergency funding bill is available here. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation before the end of this week.