US Congress commits $1.25B to international coronavirus response

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U.S. President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, takes questions from reporters during a Coronavirus Task Force update on Feb. 29, 2020. Photo by: D. Myles Culle / White House

WASHINGTON — U.S. Congress on Thursday approved an emergency spending package to fund efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.

“[It is] incredibly troubling that in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, we would even question the need for America to engage in the world.”

— Liz Schrayer, president and CEO, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

The bill, which was signed by President Donald Trump Friday, approves $8.3 billion for response and prevention, about $1.25 billion of which is to be spent internationally.

The U.S. Agency for International Development will receive about $435 million for global health programs, and $200 million will be designated for the Emergency Reserve Fund. The bill includes $300 million for international disaster assistance and some $250 million that can be used to address economic, security, and stabilization challenges that result from the virus. The bill also appropriates $1 million for USAID’s Office of Inspector General.

This money will be in addition to the $37 million in funding announced by USAID on Monday for countries affected by or at high risk of the new coronavirus and the roughly $100 million in humanitarian assistance that the U.S. sent to China in January. The U.S. is providing humanitarian assistance and personal protective equipment to more than 25 countries, according to the State Department.

Within 15 days of the bill’s enactment, the State Department and USAID are required to submit a strategy to Congress outlining preparation, prevention, and response to the new coronavirus abroad. Within 30 days of enactment, they will need to report on the proposed uses of the funds appropriated.

The State Department will receive some $264 million to fund evacuation, emergency preparedness, and the maintenance of consular operations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive $2.2 billion in the funding package, $300 million of which should be spent on global disease detection and emergency response. An additional $300 million will be transferred to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will receive about $836 million “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.”

While the bill passed the House easily on Wednesday, a vote in the Senate was delayed to debate an amendment proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, who wanted to fund the response to the new coronavirus with money from the foreign affairs budget rather than with new funding.

The amendment was rejected, but if approved would have cut funding for foreign aid and development by about 15%. Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, said it is “incredibly troubling that in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, we would even question the need for America to engage in the world.”

Update March 6, 2020: This story was updated to reflect the fact that President Trump signed the bill.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.