Congress needs to find a way forward with COVID-19 relief funding
Congress needs to find a way forward with COVID-19 relief funding

Congress needs to find a way forward with COVID-19 relief funding

If we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it’s that COVID-19 is not predictable. Case rates and difficulty ebbs and flows with new varieties, and this cycle shows no sign of ending. Though admissions and deaths are declininghas new COVID-19 cases recently increased in about half of the statesand many experts predict a fall. The situation is of particular concern to those most at risk, including the disabled, older adults, low-income communities and colored communities, as mask mandates disappear in the midst of a push for a so-called “return to normal.” Fortunately, we now have vaccines, tests and new treatments that can prevent illness, disability and even death. But these vital resources are only as effective as they are available – and Congress has just put them in limbo.

Congress postponed its spring break this week before it was able to pass a supplement COVID-19 support package. This necessary relief is being held up against the background of the whims of several senators who want to associate an independent and harmful immigration policy to the bill. That bipartite agreement would provide $ 10 billion in additional COVID-19 assistance, which is less than half of the Biden administration’s initial request from $ 22.5 billion. Most notably, the latest proposal eliminates funds for global vaccination and treatmentwhich would have lowered the risk of new variants traveling the globe.

The $ 10 billion in additional funding would only support a minimal level of critical services and the capacity we have built during the epidemic. Actually COVID-19 uninsured program, included as part of the 2020 CARES Act – and other legislation to reimburse doctors and other doctors for testing, treating and vaccinating people without health insurance – has already stopped accepting new claims due to lack of adequate funding, which leaving some uninsured persons to pay on their own. Many test sites have already begun reject people because they can not absorb the cost of staff to administer tests.

According to the White House, “production capacity testing will be hit in late June, ā€¯meaning a return to test shortages, empty shelves and long queues at test sites, even for those who can afford to buy the test. The supply of monoclonal antibody treatments delivered to states has been reduced and may expire as soon as the end of May.

Immunocompromised individuals will soon loses access to treatments such as Evusheld, a medicine that provides protection against COVID-19 and which we will not be able to give vaccines for additional boosters if necessary. The current vaccine supply will only give 70 percent of people 65 and older a fourth dose.

Federal investment in the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines – as well genomic sequencing and monitoring systems discovering new variants – is crucial for our continued preparedness and response to the pandemic. Without these tools, we may not even notice new increases, which threatens our ability to respond quickly.

With the current death rate, 1 million Americans will be dead from COVID-19 by next month, leaving thousands of people without their parents, siblings, caregivers and other loved ones. Just last year, more than 1.2 million more adults was disabled than the year before, many probably as a result of COVID-19. Lang COVID – that lasting effects of which only now is beginning to be understood – it is estimated to have kept more than 1 million workers out of work at some point since the beginning of the pandemic.

How many Americans will be unable to access tests, vaccines, and treatments during congressional recess due to lack of funding? The scaled-down $ 10 billion package is less than 0.25 per cent of the annual federal budget and receives strong support from voters and experts alike. And yet, at this level, it still is fails to provide adequate resources to support critical services for the uninsured. It would be short-sighted in the great desire to “back to normal” to leave most vulnerable Americans without a safety net and fail to invest in themselves tools and infrastructure that can support our collective health and economic recovery.

When Congress returns from recess, it should make funding for COVID-19 response and recovery a priority, but the package may be flawed, and continue to seek a way forward to meet all urgent needs.

Jill Rosenthal is director of public health at Center for American Progress, working to address structural public health issues and tackle health inequalities through social determinants of health frameworks.

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