Trump Admin Asks for $2.5 Billion to Fight Coronavirus-Here's How the Money Will Be Spent

On Monday, President Donald Trump's administration requested $2.5 billion from Congress to finance America's response to the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Cases of the pneumonia-causing virus rose to 79,331 on Monday, a total that includes 53 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Amid a growing number of cases, President Donald Trump declared during a press conference in India that American officials were doing a "great job" and posted on Twitter that it was "very much under control."

Trump's request included $1.25 billion in new funding and the rest would be assembled by moving around federal funds, including money designated to fight Ebola. Of the requested money, the Office of Management and Budget said more than $1 billion would be used for vaccine development.

Rachel Semmel, a spokesperson for OMB, told Newsweek in a statement that funds would also be used to amass "much-needed equipment and supplies," including masks, an item that was the subject of shortages in China.

Semmel added that the money the administration requested would also be used for preparedness and response activities. Those activities, according to Trump, include financing quarantine measures.

"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 (OMB) told lawmakers, according to USA Today. "The Administration believes additional Federal resources are necessary to take steps to prepare for a potential worsening of the situation in the United States."

The majority of U.S. cases involve 36 people who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Yokahama, Japan. They were quarantined upon returning to the U.S. and are receiving care at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and near Travis Air Force Base in California and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, according to Nancy Messonnier, Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD).

Ahead of Trump's administration making their request, Democratic senators, including presidential candidates Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, sent Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Mick Mulvaney, director of the OMB, a letter sharing their concerns the Trump administration hadn't requested additional resources.

Democrats criticized Trump's request for being insufficient to tackle the outbreak and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer posted on Twitter that it was "too little too late." He claimed it showed Trump's "incompetence' and said legislators had seen "no sign" that the president has "any plan or urgency to deal with the spread of the coronavirus."

donald trump emergency funds coronavirus congress
President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a Keep America Great rally in Phoenix on Thursday. There have been more than 50 cases of new coronavirus in the U.S. and the Trump administration has asked Congress for emergency funding to respond to the outbreak that some health officials fear could become a pandemic. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Trump hit back during the press conference, saying that if he requested more money, Schumer would have said it should have been less. The criticism, he claimed was "automatic."

Azar notified Congress on February 2 that he planned to reallocate up to $136 million to government agencies to support emergency response activities. Moving around money was not the proper solution, according to the Democratic senators, who urged Azar and Mulvaney to submit a request for emergency funding.

In 2014, President Barack Obama's administration asked Congress for $6.18 billion to respond to the Ebola outbreak that infected 11 people in the U.S. and killed two. The bulk of the money was intended to fortify domestic health systems and contain and mitigate the epidemic in West Africa, where 28,600 people would be infected by the time the outbreak ended in 2016. Congress approved a $5.4 billion package and in 2016, and the Obama administration announced they would move $589 million of that money into efforts to contain Zika, as Republicans requested.

Newsweek reached out to the Office of Management and Budget but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. on January 21, involving a man who recently returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Since then, a total of 12 people who recently returned from China have tested positive for the virus. There have also been two cases of human-to-human transmission involving the spouses of people who returned from China.

Messonnier told reporters on Friday that the CDC expects to see additional cases among the cruise passengers, who are under a mandatory 14-day quarantine, as well as within American communities.

"Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare our communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread," Messonnier said. "This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat."