WASHINGTON – The White House requested $2.5 billion in emergency funding late Monday to deal with the global coronavirus outbreak, but congressional Democrats quickly slammed the request as “woefully insufficient” to address the epidemic.
President Donald Trump’s administration told congressional leaders it needs $1.25 billion in funding at the Department of Homeland Security and that it hopes to redirect another $535 billion previously approved for the Ebola crisis in 2015. That would amount to $1.8 billion in funding for the virus.
The White House is also seeking the authority to redirect other funding toward the response, putting the total government effort at $2.5 billion.
“Much is still unknown about this virus and the disease it causes,” Russell Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget wrote lawmakers. “The Administration believes additional Federal resources are necessary to take steps to prepare for a potential worsening of the situation in the United States.”
China reported 409 new cases, raising the mainland’s total to 77,150. The 150 new deaths from the illness raised China’s total to 2,592. Elsewhere, a surge in reports of new cases in Iran and Italy raised the prospect of more disruptions.
The White House said that as of Sunday there are 78,811 confirmed cases
in approximately 30 countries.
Democrats criticized the White House for both the size of the request and for planning to take money from other programs. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said the House would pursue a “robust” spending package.
“Despite urgent warnings from Congress and the public health community, the Trump administration took weeks to request these emergency funds,” Lowey said in a statement. “It is profoundly disturbing that their answer now is to raid money Congress has designated for other critical public health priorities.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the request “too little too late.”
White House officials stressed the $2.5 billion figure, which they said includes the shifting of other funding toward the virus response. The funding request, officials said, would include more than $1 billion for vaccine development, among other priorities.
“The Trump Administration continues to take the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease very seriously,” OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said in a statement. “Today, the Administration is transmitting to Congress a $2.5 billion supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much needed equipment and supplies.”
A sharp rise in coronavirus cases outside of China jolted global financial markets Monday, reviving concerns about the potential economic fallout from the outbreak.
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 1,031.61 points, or 3.6%, to close at 27,960.80, its biggest one-day point drop since February 2018, when inflation fears rattled investors. It also erased the blue-chip average’s gains for the year.
Contributing: Jessica Menton