20 Democrats urge leaders to fully fund pandemic preparedness in new package

Washington, DC

Original article written by Peter Sullivan for The Hill.

Rep. Torres speaking on a mobile phone
Photo credit: Greg Nash

A group of 20 Democratic lawmakers is calling on their leadership to fully fund pandemic preparedness efforts in a coming $3.5 trillion package, amid concern about cutbacks. 

The letter to leadership was led by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and was signed by lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). 

“Without this critical funding, if another pandemic hit us tomorrow, we could be as ill-prepared as we were for COVID-19,” the letter states. https://e03e60bbb27813e54f65dc8090c2c676.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

At issue is $30 billion that President Biden proposed to prepare for future pandemics as part of his American Jobs Plan. But Democrats in Congress are considering cutting that funding down to as little as $5 billion as they seek to fit a slew of priorities into a $3.5 trillion window for their coming package. 

Backers, including many public health experts, are warning that it is incredibly short-sighted to cut back on pandemic preparedness funding in the middle of a pandemic. 

“There should be no need at all for a press conference that states the obvious and calls for pandemic preparedness to be fully funded in the reconciliation bill,” Torres said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The fact that members of Congress are even considering defunding pandemic preparedness in the midst of a pandemic is dangerously shortsighted.”

Torres said that he has “had conversations with leadership and I have not been given the assurances that one would want to ensure that the $30 billion is going to be insulated from cuts.”

Torres said the funding could be used to create prototype vaccines to speed the response time for developing a vaccine for different types of viruses. Funding could also go to priorities like shoring up the Strategic National Stockpile and training personnel in pandemic response.

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