House Greenlights $8.3B For Fighting Coronavirus

By Danielle Nichole Smith
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Law360 (March 4, 2020, 8:22 PM EST) -- A measure providing $8.3 billion in funding to counteract the coronavirus outbreak is heading to the Senate for approval, after clearing the House of Representatives in a 415-2 vote Wednesday.

The emergency supplemental appropriations legislation for addressing COVID-19 was introduced in the House earlier on Wednesday by Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., who chairs the chamber's appropriations committee. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

"As the coronavirus moves closer to becoming a global pandemic, it is spreading within the United States, including in my own home county, and its death toll continues to grow," Lowey said on the House floor. "While the Trump administration has repeatedly demonstrated a failure to understand public health needs, Congress is acting with the seriousness and sense of urgency the coronavirus threat demands."

"This emergency supplemental is the product of thoughtful bipartisan cooperation," she added.

The $8.3 billion in funding includes $3 billion for vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic research and development as well as $2.2 billion for public health funding for prevention, $950 million of which will support state and local health agencies, according to the committee.

And the emergency supplemental sets aside another billion dollars for obtaining pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, the committee's release said. The measure further contemplates up to $7 billion in low-interest loans to affected small businesses, according to the release.

In addition to providing monetary assistance, the bill has provisions requiring that all the funds are used to combat the coronavirus and other infectious diseases and help ensure that vaccines, tests and treatments would be "affordable in the commercial market."

On Tuesday, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said he will be introducing a bill under which "all Americans will be automatically eligible for emergency Medicaid to cover testing and treatment costs for COVID-19 and any other illness that rises to the level of a national emergency."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website Wednesday, there are 80 known cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The CDC recommends that people avoid close contact with those who are ill, refrain from touching their faces and wash their hands with soap and water water for at least 20 seconds, among other cautionary measures, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, such as COVID-19.

--Editing by Bruce Goldman.

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