Trump Administration Seeks $46 Billion For Agencies To Deal With The Coronavirus
Aside from the financial assistance the Trump administration and Congress are considering for individuals, small business and corporations, the federal government itself could be the beneficiary of a huge injection of money if lawmakers and the White House agree to it.
The administration has requested a $45.8 billion package of assistance that includes funding for a wide array of agencies and programs, from Amtrak to the Veterans Administration, and for needs ranging from disinfecting buildings and airports, to protective clothing for federal workers and tablets to allow for increased telework by federal employees.
In a letter accompanying the request, White House Office of Management acting director Russell Vought said the money is necessary, because agencies are incurring "unanticipated costs" as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic. "With the pandemic growing, resource needs have also grown," he wrote.
Some of the biggest recipients would include:
Department of Defense
The Pentagon would receive $8.3 billion "to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to United States servicemembers, their dependents, and DOD civilians; minimize the impacts of the virus on strategic mission readiness; and support national response efforts.
Department of Education
The department is asking for $100 million to help "both K-12 and post-secondary schools respond to unforeseen emergencies, in response to coronavirus. These funds could help clean and disinfect affected schools, and assist in counseling and distance learning/online learning costs."
In addition, the department is seeking $40 million to cover the anticipated increase in "loan servicing costs due to student loan repayment relief changes, including the reduction of interest to 0% on all Federally-held student loans effective March 13, and provide funding to support communications and outreach efforts to education borrowers on their options and choices during
this time of uncertainty."
Another $10 million would be used to add the bandwidth as well as phones and tablets to allow some "5,000 staff to work remotely simultaneously ... to support maximum telework."
Department of Energy
The department would receive $21 million "for additional information technology requirements and telework support, also including increased cybersecurity costs."
Food and Drug Administration
The FDA is seeking $80 million "to support operational and response needs including mitigating drug shortages and pre- and postmarket work on vaccines and therapies."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The CDC would receive $3.415 billion to among other things, "support lab capacity at the State, local, and CDC levels; comprehensive COVID response and preparedness efforts (including support for State and local preparedness efforts); and additional funding for the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.
Public Health Service
The Department of Health and Human Services would get $5.277 billion, much of which would go to "to support the development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. It also would support procurement of supplies for the Strategic National Stockpile, emergency medical management and field operations, pandemic forecasting and situational awareness and activities related to emergency workforce modernization and telehealth infrastructure, in response to coronavirus."
Transportation Security Administration
TSA is requesting $153 million for among other things, "increased airport sanitation costs ($54 million), which include increased cleaning of airport surface areas to ensure suitable sanitization and decrease the spread of the disease. It also wants $53 million for personal protective equipment needed for TSA personnel," several of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Customs and Border Protection
The administration wants $567 million "to fund up to nine migrant quarantine facilities along the Southwest border, including repurposed soft-sided facilities originally used for the migrant surge in 2019." The money would also be used for medical support for migrants, as well as money for personal protective equipment for CBP staff.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
ICE is seeking $249 million "to convert four facilities into dedicated quarantine facilities along the Southwest border and provide for enhanced sanitation and janitorial services." In addition, the money would allow ICE to increase the number of detained migrants monitored with the Alternatives to Detention Program. This would allow ICE to minimize the risk of further exposure to detainees and prevent transmission within the detention system.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA would receive $2 billion for its Disaster Relief Fund account. It's the account that's used for helping states and local government with the costs of cleaning up from hurricanes and tornadoes. The administration wants to use the fund to "support potentially all 56 States and Territories for COVID-19 response efforts, including for direct Federal assistance, temporary facilities, commodities, equipment, and emergency operations costs. The Department estimates that this level funding would be sufficient for this purpose along with ongoing and future emergencies."
In addition, FEMA is requesting $47 million for "expanded conference
bridge capabilities, cybersecurity, and virtual private networks; cleaning costs at FEMA headquarters; and six months worth of personal protective equipment needed for FEMA personnel."
Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD would receive $400 million "to focus assistance on unsheltered homeless persons, and address increased needs at homeless shelters. The money would also be available for short-term rental assistance, utility assistance and motel vouchers. Waivers would also be sought to make money available for "eviction-related needs."
The administration is seeking $73 million for the Peace Corps to cover the costs of evacuating more than 6,000 volunteers and 177 U.S. employees from Peace Corps posts worldwide.
Federal Railroad Administration
The Trump administration seeks a total of $500 million for lost operating revenue for Amtrak. Half of that would be for the passenger rail line's operations in the Northeast corridor between Washington D.C and Boston, and half for it's operations in the rest of the country.
The VA would receive the largest chunk of the requested assistance:
- $13.1 billion was requested to cover health care treatment costs, testing kits, temporary intensive care unit bed conversion and expansion, and personal protective equipment.
- $2.1 billion more would go to fund veteran's health care treatment outside VA facilities.
- $100 million "would enable VHA's Office of Emergency Management to manage the on-going response to coronavirus without risking degradation to other emergency preparedness requirements."
- $175 million to upgrade all VA medical centers to the current Federal Protective Service standards in response to coronavirus.
- $1.2 billion "to support the agency's quick shift to using telehealth and technology to both deliver healthcare services in response to coronavirus, and mitigate the risk of virus transmission. This shift would require up-front investment in Information Technology resources to support increased use of simultaneous telehealth appointments and upgrade associated bandwidth for
employees and healthcare providers."
Bureau of Indian Affairs
The administration requests $37 million "to clean and disinfect thousands of facilities and provide assistance to over 400 Tribes" in response to the coronavirus." In addition, the Bureau of Indian Education would receive $19 million for its' facilities.
Social Security Administration
The SSA would get $50 million for equipment to allow employees to telework. Most Social Security Administration field offices are closed to the public but many employees must still report to work. This would allow them to service customers from home.
Internal Revenue Service
The Trump administration wants $241 million for the IRS, to allow it to "improve taxpayer services for the extended filing season and new tax credit questions, provide taxpayers with new forms and information online for new credits, implement a manual process for the proposed paid leave tax credit, and enhance IRS information technology capacity to respond and interact with taxpayers." Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.