$8.3 Billion Coronavirus Emergency Funding Bill Passes Senate, Trump Expected To Sign

Virus Outbreak
Alex Brandon/AP Photo
A hand sanitizer dispenser is placed just outside the floor of the U.S. Senate chamber after concerns about the coronavirus, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in Washington.

Updated Thursday, 3/5 4:38 p.m.

Congress approved $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to the novel coronavirus at the local, state, federal and international levels.

The bill now heads to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign the bill.

The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Act includes more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines and diagnostics; $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control; $1 billion for state and local response efforts; and nearly $1 billion for procurement of medicine and medical supplies. 

“It’s critically important to support our state and local health care apparatus around the country,” Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said after the Senate vote Thursday. “I’m glad we got it out and we need all hands on deck to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do.”

Colorado health officials announced the state had its first positive case of the new coronavirus on Thursday, March 5.

Based on advice from medical experts and scientists, Democratic Rep. Jason Crow said Congress needed to respond aggressively with the appropriate amount of funding.

“What we do know is that if we allowed this to get out of control, and to rapidly spread, the economic consequences are far wider-reaching and deep than certainly spending the money upfront to make sure we get our arms around it,” Crow said.

The Senate passed the measure 96 to 1 with both Colorado senators supporting the supplemental funding. The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, 415-2. Republican. Rep. Ken Buck was one of the two no votes. 

In a tweet, Buck said the president originally asked for $2.5 billion to bolster the country’s coronavirus response, and the House came up with a bloated spending package. He also told KOA Radio that there was no hearing on the bill. 

“I’m not going to vote to spend money that is inappropriate and wasteful,” he said on KOA.

Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette has been tapped by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be one of the point people for the coronavirus outbreak. DeGette was one of the members who questioned Vice President Mike Pence when he briefed House Democrats on Wednesday, including asking if this funding will be enough. 

“Basically, what the administration has said, this will be a first tranche of money, and if looks like it becomes more serious, the community spread is greater, than we're all prepared to put whatever resources we need,” she said.

Rep. Joe Neguse said that aside from providing relief for Colorado's small businesses impacted by COVID-19, the funding packaged also works to "ensure seniors can access telemedicine services in our rural communities across Colorado and ensure our state will be reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the Federal response."

Republican Rep. Scott Tipton thinks Colorado is in a good place to tackle any public health emergency. Tipton said passage of the bill means Gov. Jared Polis will get requested resources “to make sure we’re going to deploy needed assets in the event we do see outbreaks in Colorado.”

Overall, Tipton is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re making the right moves, but we’re dealing with the unknown, as well," he said.

The Colorado delegation also sent a letter to the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services asking to extend six current contracts, from the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program to the Public Health Tracking Program, at the same funding level so the state can ensure preparedness for COVID-19.