White House seeks $2.5B for coronavirus, but Pelosi says that’s not enough

The White House is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to respond to the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19 that has killed more than 2,600 people in mainland China, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the request inadequate.

The administration’s supplemental funding plan was designed “to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much-needed equipment and supplies,” said Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.

Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement that the administration’s request is “is long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency.”

She also accused the Trump administration of leaving vacant critical positions at the National Security Council and Department of Homeland Security.

“And now, the president is compounding our vulnerabilities by seeking to ransack funds still needed to keep Ebola in check,” Pelosi said.

“The president should not be raiding money that Congress has appropriated for other life-or-death public health priorities,” she said, suggesting that the House would move forward with its own plan.

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (center) tours San Francisco’s Chinatown on February 24, 2020. Pelosi joined community leaders on a merchant walk and dim sum lunch in San Francisco’s Chinatown as concerns over the coronavirus have had an impact on businesses.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The White House request came as key government accounts were running low. The Department of Health and Human Services had already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.

The administration is requesting $1.25 billion in new funding and wants to transfer $535 million more in funding from an Ebola preparedness account, which has been a top priority of Democrats. The White House anticipates shifting money from other HHS accounts and other agencies to complete the $2.5 billion response plan.

The White House request of $2.5 billion includes more than $1 billion for the development of a vaccine, as well as money for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment like masks.

Trump tweeted Monday that “the Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

“We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” Trump tweeted.

The Dow closed down more than 1,000 points Monday over coronavirus fears. It was the worst day in two years for the blue-chip index.

There have been no deaths from the coronavirus illness in the United States, but there are confirmed cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there have been two cases of person-to-person transmission in the U.S., and that the virus can be spread via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The CDC says on its website that the virus is not currently spreading in the U.S.

The majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 have been in mainland China, where the outbreak began. There have been 12 deaths in Iran, eight in South Korea, seven in Italy, and others elsewhere, according to public health officials.

In mainland China, the national health commission on Tuesday morning local time reported a total of 2,663 deaths linked to COVID-19.

The epicenter of the outbreak has been in Hubei Province, where the city of Wuhan is located. There have been more than 77,600 confirmed cases in mainland China, according to the national health commission.

The Associated Press contributed.

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