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Schumer Requests $8.5 Billion in Coronavirus Funds, Accuses Trump Admin. of ‘Dangerous Incompetence’

Chuck Schumer and democrats hold a news conference in Washington, January 31, 2020. (Amanda Voisard/Reuters)

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday requested $8.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the coronavirus, more than three times the amount the White House has requested.

Schumer sent his request Wednesday to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The emergency funding includes $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, $2 billion in reimbursements for coronavirus-related spending by states and local governments, $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine, and $1 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development as an emergency reserve fund.

During a floor speech, Schumer accused the Trump administration of “towering and dangerous incompetence” in its approach to addressing the virus.

“Here in the United States, the Trump administration has been caught flat-footed. The administration has no plan to deal with the coronavirus, no plan and seemingly no urgency to develop one,” Schumer said.

“This proposal brings desperately-needed resources to the global fight against coronavirus. Americans need to know that their government is prepared to handle the situation before coronavirus spreads to our communities. I urge the Congress to move quickly on this proposal. Time is of the essence,” the New York Democrat said of his funding request in a statement.

The Trump administration requested only $2.5 billion to protect Americans against the virus, $1.25 billion in new funding and the remainder appropriated from current health programs, including $535 million from funding currently earmarked to combat the Ebola virus. Schumer’s request would not siphon any funding from current health programs.

The coronavirus, a respiratory illness which originated in China, has killed nearly 3,000 people globally and infected nearly 81,000. The U.S. has identified 53 cases within the country, including 39 individuals who were repatriated to the U.S. after contracting the virus abroad. Symptoms of the virus, which has taken its largest toll on the elderly, have ranged from mild to severe.

It remains unclear when the Senate would take up the emergency funding bill.

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