The Biden administration is seeking another $10 billion to help protect Ukraine against the Russian invasion and an additional $22.5 billion to cover coronavirus pandemic-related expenses, two major additions to budget talks already underway.
The acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, laid out the need for the supplemental funding in a Thursday blog post. The requests would be additions to a planned budget agreement that Congress is trying to finish before a March 11 deadline.
Young said in the blog post that the money was urgently needed. The $10 billion to Ukraine would be a rapid escalation of the $1.4 billion provided by the United States since 2021, a reflection of the crisis caused by the Russian offensive that began last month. Young said the money would cover “additional humanitarian, security, and economic assistance in Ukraine and the neighboring region in the coming days and weeks.”
Last week, Biden administration officials told congressional aides that their requests would include $3.5 billion for the Pentagon and $2.9 billion for humanitarian aid as Russia’s invasion has caused more than a million Ukrainian refugees to flee their country.
The $22.5 billion tied to the coronavirus would pay for testing, treatments and vaccines as well as investments in research and efforts to increase vaccinations worldwide. There had been expectations that the request was going to be for as much as $30 billion, which comes after lawmakers and the Biden and Trump administrations committed a combined $5.8 trillion over multiple years on the pandemic, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The requested Ukraine assistance seems sure to win broad bipartisan support in Congress, and the proposed additional COVID-19 spending has won strong support from Democrats.
“To keep schools open, to keep life as normal as it can be, we need additional COVID investments now, not after a possible new variant arrives,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday. He said COVID-19 money already provided by Congress “has been spent.”
But Republicans have balked at the request for added COVID-19 funds. In a letter to Biden, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and 35 other GOP senators complained Tuesday that there’s no detailed accounting of whether and how the earlier funds were spent, saying, “It is not yet clear why additional funding is needed.”
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said on a call with reporters on Wednesday that the plan to address the pandemic is “robust and comprehensive,” which is why it requires additional funding for immediate and longer-term priorities.
The federal government spent $6.8 trillion last fiscal year, due in large part to the emergency measures tied to the coronavirus that included President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal budget was about $4.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.