- The White House is preparing to ask Congress for another pandemic spending package, according to The Washington Post.
- This package would focus on ramping up vaccines, therapeutics, and assisting in global vaccine efforts.
- Officials told the Post it has sufficient funding to deal with "immediate needs," but given Omicron, more will likely be needed.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
The Omicron surge is showing the country that the pandemic isn't going away anytime soon — and US President Joe Biden will likely need more money to deal with that reality.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the White House is preparing to ask Congress for another pandemic-related spending package, according to people familiar with the matter. While officials in the Office of Management and Budget told the Post it has sufficient funds to cover the country's "immediate needs," the administration has started to put together a longer-term funding request — likely costing tens of billions of dollars — to ramp up vaccine distribution, fund Covid therapeutics, and help with global vaccine efforts.
Given that cases across the country are continuing to rise due to the Omicron variant, White House officials told the Post this funding request will likely be necessary in the coming weeks.
One of Biden's first major accomplishments in office was the passage of his $1.9 trillion stimulus law, which included over $100 billion in pandemic-related spending. Since then, the administration has acted on other forms of pandemic assistance, most recently doubling its order on the Pfizer Covid pill, and the Post reported on Thursday that USPS is finalising its order to ship 500 million coronavirus testing kits to households across the country.
But requesting another big spending package could be a heavy lift for the administration. Given inflation in the US that's squeezing Americans' wallets, moderate and conservative lawmakers have pushed back against additional spending. This was most recently seen with Biden's $1.75 trillion Build Back Better proposal that was just tabled by Senate Democrats due to centrist Democratic Senator Joe Manchin's inflation concerns.
Still, inflation isn't stopping the Omicron surge, and Americans need more resources to keep themselves, and others, safe. Insider reported on Wednesday that Omicron is "making people really sick in a different way," as per an ER doctor, with the potential to make preexisting medical conditions worse.
Given that this surge is hitting restaurant and hospitality workers especially hard, lawmakers in Congress are mulling a proposal to pump millions into the restaurant industry, following a $28.6 billion investment in the American Rescue Plan."
"We did a major relief package that included helping restaurants just last year," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing this week. "We are in constant discussions with Congress and leadership about the needs of the American people — whether they are small businesses or restaurants or people sitting in their homes — as we continue to fight the pandemic."