Two years since the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress authorized $884 billion of aid to state and local governments. $62 billion was allocated for colleges and universities. Direct payments were made to $869 billion to Americans. This includes individuals earning as high as $90,000. They never lost income because of the pandemic.
It turns out that there is no money to help COVID-19 patients who cannot afford treatment.
This week, the White House declared that an initiative to provide uninsured Americans with COVID testing, treatment, and vaccines will be shut down unless Congress authorizes emergency funding. According to Reuters, the Biden administration requested that Congress provide $22 billion more funds for this program in accordance with the omnibus spending bill. However, the extra funding was not provided in the final package.
Without further funding, there will be “consequences”. Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary) told reporters that it was dire on Tuesday. That would be “A decrease in monoclonal antibodies being sent to countries, inability to buy more treatments, fewer American tests, less surveillance for possible future variants, as well as a greater risk of running out of vaccines.
It is a shame that so many of COVID relief funds from the federal government were used for COVID relief.
Setting priorities is the key to budgeting. This is true even during an emergency. However, lawmakers made use of the COVID-19 epidemic as an excuse for spending money in a way that was comical if it wasn’t so terrible.
Nonprofit group, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has created a helpful website to keep track of unprecedented borrowings, spending, printing, and other activities that took place during the two-year period of the pandemic. Out of more than $5.7 trillion in COVID-related spending authorized by Congress (which doesn’t include actions taken by the Federal Reserve or executive branch agencies to respond to the pandemic), the group classifies a scant $682 billion—less than 12 percent—as “health spending.”
Of that amount, only $53 billion—that’s less than 1 percent of all COVID aid authorized by Congress—was spent on vaccines and other treatments.
This means that there is plenty of money available to pay for the COVID program. In fact, government has a legitimate role in addressing a public health crisis. It provides care for people who can’t otherwise afford it.
But Congress and the executive branch—which in this case includes both the Trump and Biden administrations—has utterly failed at the most basic task of governance.
Instead, colleges and universities got billions of dollars via emergency COVID legislation— much of it delivered with “few strings attached” and few requirements for reporting how the money was spent, according to Ed SourceEducation trade magazine. According to an Associated Press review, K-12 schools are also using COVID to cover “practical costs” such as the hiring of nurses, restocking libraries and fixing playgrounds.
The federal government flooded state and local governments with money during the pandemic. However, all indicators indicated that they weren’t in need of it. Inflation was probably exacerbated by three rounds of payments to Americans. They did this at a time in which people were saving more than they did to fight COVID-19. The $800 billion Paycheck Protection Program was meant to assist workers in closed industries due to the pandemic. However, it ended up giving a huge advantage to corporate executives. ReasonPeter Suderman, a reporter for the BBC recently reported. It was all spent while the country was at near-record amounts of debt. All we received for that was runaway inflation.
If it wasn’t so obvious, this would make things a little less frustrating. As Congress debated the first round COVID emergency funding two years back, I wrote to say that legislators would spend money they don’t need in order to resolve a crisis which can’t be solved by more money.
But I was wrong. It was an excellent public investment to fund COVID treatment for the most vulnerable. But it’s a damn shame that so much of the COVID relief money spent over the past two years went to everything except COVID relief.