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$1B US Coronavirus Fund Remains Unspent, Except For Trump Ad On COVID-19

KEY POINTS

  • The bulk of the CDC’s $1 billion coronavirus funding remains unspent despite multiple requests to do so
  • The funding was part of the Paycheck Protection Program authorized five months ago to help fight the virus
  • The Trump administration directed $200 million of the funding to a $300 million anti-virus ad campaign

Most of the $1 billion funding package intended to help the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct COVID-19 contract tracing and testing remains unspent, except for $200 million the Trump administration used for ad campaign about the virus. 

According to a Bloomberg report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the situation, the $1 billion in funding was part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Care Enhancement Act, which was authorized more than five months ago.

The relief package was intended to help the CDC improve its surveillance, epidemiology, and contact tracing efforts. It was also allocated for laboratory capacity expansion and boost testing for COVID-19, however, those programs have yet to be funded.

A CDC spokesman said the Trump administration directed over $200 million of the funding to go toward a $300 million coronavirus ad campaign that was developed outside the agency. Other funds were used to support the White House’s vaccine development program. 

The health official also testified that CDC experts were not involved in the advertising campaign that “aimed to defeat despair and inspire hope” in Americans. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo organized the ad, which has suffered setbacks in its production, Politico reported.

The report said most of the funding has been stalled and inaccessible to the CDC since September despite the agency’s requests for access to some of the money over the summer. Typically, fundings for agencies should go through Congress and gain approval from the cabinet department and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

A senior official for the Trump administration dismissed the allegations and said that the budget department held up no money. The official refused to share details about when the approval was passed or how the money would be spent. 

The news comes at a time the CDC is desperate for more funding to move forward with its vaccination plans. On Sept. 16, CDC Director Robert Redfield appeared at a hearing with lawmakers, saying the agency would “urgently” need $6 billion to distribute a coronavirus vaccine, The Hill reported. 

“Right now, we’ve leveraged about $600 million, but we do not have the resources to support 64 jurisdictions to get this plan operational, so to me, it’s an urgency,” Redfield said. “The time is now for us to be able to get those resources out to the states, and we currently don’t have those resources.”

CDC Director Robert Redfield attends a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing reviewing coronavirus response efforts on September 16, 2020 CDC Director Robert Redfield attends a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing reviewing coronavirus response efforts on September 16, 2020 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / POOL

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