Lack Of Funds And Transparency In Spending May Further Paralyse US’s Covid-19 Response

by Swarajya Staff - Mar 9, 2022 03:28 PM +05:30 IST
Lack Of Funds And Transparency In Spending May Further Paralyse US’s Covid-19 ResponseUS President Joe Biden.
Snapshot
  • Biden regime has been facing heat over lack of transparency and accountability in fight against Covid-19.

On 3 March, Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Joe Biden administration, called for an urgent additional funding towards Covid-19 response efforts. Urging the Congress to “promptly provide $22.5 billion to cover immediate needs for tests, treatments and vaccines, investments in research and development of next-generation vaccines,” she alerted the legislative body that, “without additional resources, we won’t be able to secure the treatments, vaccines, and tests Americans need in coming months and fight future variants”.

However, the day prior, in a letter addressed to Biden, 36 Republican senators including Mitt Romney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed apprehensions over the need for additional funding towards Covid-19 response saying, “while we have supported historic, bipartisan measures in the United States Senate to provide unprecedented investments in vaccines, therapeutics, and testing, it is not clear why additional funding is needed”.

Biden regime has been facing heat over lack of transparency and accountability. A recent investigative report by Washington Post, cited in the letter by Republican senators, headlined as “Immense Fraud” said that the spending portal does not offer the details regarding how the “broad swaths of cash” received by different stakeholders for Covid response, have been used and allocated further. The report further states that the administration has “struggled to answer the most basic questions” over the spending of funds even in the critical areas like testing.

Therefore, the senators have held back on funding saying that before they consider any additional funding for Covid relief, Congress must be appraised with a full accounting of how the government has spent funds worth $6 trillion, described in the letter as “the single largest expenditure of public funds on one effort in the history of the nation”.

The issue of lack of funds is clearly not as fleeting and casual as it might seem at the first instance. The urgency can be gauged by the estimates made by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki that the current stock of anti-virals will be exhausted by September without additional funding by Congress. He further stressed that “the $22 billion for Covid is absolutely necessary. In fact, we will probably need more as we need more therapies. One of the pieces of this is to buy the pills”.

The crunch is more severe than the Biden regime wants it to be seen. So much so that government has paused the buying of an already committed batch of millions of Pfizer’s anti-viral med. Out of the planned 10 million extra doses, only 835,000 have been consigned by the White House. Public Citizen Research Director Zain Rizvi, criticised the White House’s “gap between rhetoric and reality” and, after reviewing dozens of contract disclosures, stated that “the contract details are clear evidence that the Biden administration has known for months that new Covid money was needed. It has already taken far too long for new Covid funding to be requested. This is still an emergency.”

Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo, however, put up an assured face saying, “We continue to collaborate with the U.S. government to help broaden patient access to this potentially game-changing therapy, and we are confident that the Administration will fulfil its purchasing commitments.” It is noteworthy that even if the White House confirms the order, additional 9 million courses will not be available before Pfizer completes the ongoing ramping up of its manufacturing capacity.

The issue of lack of transparency in the Covid related expenditure has picked more flame because allocated money has been routed to purposes outside the ones intended and envisaged by the Congress. As reported by STAT, nearly 10 per cent of the funding or $17 billion that Congress set aside to support hospitals and healthcare providers, was funnelled to buy vaccines and therapeutics.

Further Bloomberg had flagged the funds for Operation Warp Speed being rerouted from the money designated for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Strategic National Stockpile. STAT also confirmed that around $3 billion meant for testing and the Strategic National Stockpile went towards Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to house unaccompanied children at the border.

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