Biden seeks $10B for aid to Ukraine, $22.5B for coronavirus
(AP) — The Biden administration is seeking another $10 billion to help protect Ukraine against the Russian invasion and $22.5 billion more to cover pandemic-related expenses, two major additions to budget talks already underway.
The acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, laid out the requests for the supplemental funding in a Thursday blog post. They would be additions to a planned budget agreement that Congress is trying to finish before a March 11 deadline.
Young said in the blog post that the money was urgently needed. The $10 billion to Ukraine would be a rapid escalation of the $1.4 billion provided by the United States since 2021, a reflection of the crisis caused by the Russian offensive that began last month. Young said the money would cover “additional humanitarian, security and economic assistance in Ukraine and the neighboring region in the coming days and weeks.”
Last week, Biden administration officials told congressional aides that their requests would include $3.5 billion for the Pentagon and $2.9 billion for humanitarian aid as Russia’s invasion has caused more than a million Ukrainian refugees to flee their country.
The $22.5 billion tied to the coronavirus would pay for testing, treatments and vaccines as well as investments in research and efforts to increase vaccinations worldwide. There had been expectations that the request was going to be for as much as $30 billion, after lawmakers and the Biden and Trump administrations previously committed a combined $5.8 trillion on the pandemic, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The requested Ukraine assistance seems sure to win broad bipartisan support in Congress, and the proposed additional COVID-19 spending has won strong backing from Democrats.
“The $22 billion for COVID is absolutely necessary. In fact we’ll probably need more,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“To keep schools open, to keep life as normal as it can be, we need additional COVID investments now, not after a possible new variant arrives,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.
Republicans have balked at the request for added COVID-19 funds. But if that money is included in a single, mammoth package also financing government agencies and helping Ukraine and NATO allies, that would be a tough bill to vote against.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and 35 other GOP senators wrote Biden on Tuesday that before supporting new money, they want “a full accounting” of how the government has spent funds already provided.
The COVID-19 relief bills enacted since the pandemic began have contained $370 billion for public health programs including vaccines and other medical supplies, testing, research and reimbursing providers, according to a Department of Health and Human Services table obtained by The Associated Press.
Of that amount, $355 billion is currently being spent, has been spent or has been committed to contracts, the charts state.
Those tables have been distributed to many members of Congress from both parties, said an administration official. But Romney tweeted Wednesday that he remains “eager to receive” details of the COVID money.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said on a call with reporters on Wednesday that the plan to address the pandemic is “robust and comprehensive,” which is why it requires additional funding for immediate and longer-term priorities.
The federal government spent $6.8 trillion last fiscal year, due in large part to the emergency measures tied to the coronavirus that included President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal budget was about $4.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
AP reporter Alan Fram contributed to this report.