WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives is expected to approve a massive funding package Wednesday afternoon to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, following several days of bitter partisan infighting.
The expected $8.3 billion funding package is a significant increase from the roughly $2 billion initially proposed by the White House. The Senate intends to pass the measure by the end of the week, at which point President Donald Trump is expected to sign off on the funding.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., offered a peek inside of the supplemental appropriations bill Wednesday morning.
At least $500 million will be earmarked for medical supplies and equipment for hospitals as well as state and local governments, he said.
Schumer also said he expects the bill will flag $350 million just for virus hotbeds in the U.S. Community health centers will receive $100 million in assistance and over $950 million is set aside in the package just to repay state and local governments for the investments they have already made to respond to the outbreak.
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday morning before the funding package deal was struck, a duo of public health experts and the former director of the Centers for Disease Control under President George W. Bush testified before lawmakers about the need to move preparedness efforts ahead more quickly.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told lawmakers on the committee that the funding is critical for setting up diagnostic and patient processing systems.
Long term care and assisted living facilities where residents are largely geriatric or have compromised immune systems are already at significant risk, she noted. But that risk can be reduced by getting local and state governments to assist facilities with improving or building out their infectious control programs.
Staff must be retrained and creative ideas about how to quarantine or isolate people are also needed, Ezike said.
This story about the coronavirus funding package is developing…
— By Brandi Buchman