© . FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden comments on the wave of government responses to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, US, Jan. 13, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
WASHINGTON () – Congressional negotiators have agreed to allocate an additional $10 billion in COVID-19 financing to meet U.S. needs, but have cut international aid from the package, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday. If passed, the compromise would be less than half of the $22.5 billion initially sought by US President Joe Biden to fight COVID, prepare for future variants and protect the country’s pandemic infrastructure. strengthen. White House press secretary Jen Psaki urged Congress to act “quickly” in a statement. “The House looks forward to considering this urgent package once it is passed in the Senate and sending it to the office of the president for signature,” US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “While this agreement does not meet the government’s full request, this package will meet the immediate needs to obtain more vaccines, boosters, tests and therapies to keep the pandemic at bay – and it must be implemented as soon as possible” Pelosi added. Biden has said more funding is needed as the world continues to fight COVID into the third year of the pandemic. While US officials have said they don’t expect a surge in the latest BA.2 Omicron variant, they have pointed out that vaccines should remain available for free and surveillance and testing should be stepped up. US regulators last week approved a second booster shot for elderly and immunocompromised Americans, but government officials have said that without more funding from Congress, the money for the free shots will run out. “The consequences of doing nothing are serious,” Biden warned lawmakers at an event at the White House last week. Lawmakers had weighed in on a $15 billion measure, which included $5 billion in international aid. Health experts have said that without full global immunization efforts, the virus could continue to mutate, increasing the risk of infection and vaccine evasion. Members of Congress negotiating the package, however, were unable to agree on how to pay for the global response. One of the negotiators, Republican Senator Mitt Romney, said he is open to funding global efforts in a separate, “fiscally justifiable solution” in the coming weeks. A Senate vote on the $10 billion measure could come this week. Approval would send it to the House of Representatives.