A Senate stopgap funding bill cut over $27 billion in aid for COVID-19 and monkeypox programs, dealing another blow to the Biden administration after Congress failed to advance multiple COVID-19 funding packages since 2021.
The funding bill, meant to avert a government shutdown, advanced in a 72-23 vote Tuesday night. It needs to clear a final vote in the Senate, as well as a vote in the House of Representatives before landing on President Biden’s desk for signing.
The HHS has sounded the alarm as it had not received any federal funding since last year while battling both monkeypox and COVID-19. In August, the HHS announced that funding for free COVID-19 vaccines could run out as soon as January, adding that the agency hadn’t received funding for “more than 530 days.”
Over $22 billion in COVID-19 funds were cut from a previous stopgap spending package in March, down from the initially requested $30 billion in federal funding. And in April, Democrats torpedoed a $10 billion bipartisan COVID-19 aid bill in the Senate due to a proposed immigration amendment.
Although failing to advance COVID-19 funding, the bill does extend two rural hospital programs through Dec. 16. The Medicare-Dependent Hospital program and Inpatient Hospital Payment Adjustment for Certain Low-volume Hospitals give aid to rural hospitals that face closures due to rising expenses.
The programs boost payments to hospitals that have higher costs compared to inpatient payment rates and few Medicare patients.
The bill also includes more than $12 billion in funding to Ukraine, $2.5 billion to address wildfire damage in New Mexico and $20 million to clean water supplies in Jackson, Mississippi.