WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Negotiators in Congress have agreed to an additional US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) in Covid-19 funding to address US needs but have dropped international aid from the package, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday (April 4).
The compromise, if passed, would be less than half of the US$22.5 billion initially sought by United States President Joe Biden to combat Covid-19, prepare for future variants and shore up the nation's pandemic infrastructure.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a statement urged Congress to move "promptly".
Mr Biden has said more funding is needed as the world continues to fight Covid-19 in the pandemic's third year. While US officials have said they do not expect a surge from the latest Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, they have pointed to the need to continue to make vaccines available at no cost and to boost surveillance and testing.
US regulators last week approved a second booster shot for older and immunocompromised Americans, but administration officials have said that without more funding from Congress, money will run out for the free shots.
"The consequences of inaction are severe," Mr Biden warned lawmakers at a White House event last week.
Lawmakers had been weighing a US$15 billion measure that included US$5 billion in international aid. Health experts have said that without full global immunisation efforts, the virus can continue to mutate, increasing the risk of infection and vaccine evasion.
Members of Congress negotiating the package, however, could not agree on how to pay for the global response. One of the negotiators, Republican Senator Mitt Romney, said he was open to funding global efforts in a separate, "fiscally responsible solution" in the coming weeks.
A Senate vote on the US$10 billion measure could come as soon as this week. Approval would send it to the House of Representatives.