House, Senate strike deal on $8.3 billion funding package to combat coronavirus

WASHINGTON – Leaders from the Democrat-controlled House and GOP-led Senate came to a compromise deal Wednesday that will provide $8.3 billion to both combat the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. and help treat those affected, according to a House Democratic aide.

The number is more than triple the amount President Donald Trump originally asked for last month.

The package includes more than $3 billion for research and the development of vaccines and $2.2 billion that will help in prevention, preparedness and responding to the threat of the virus, the aide said. 

It also includes an important caveat that Democrats and Republicans had been bickering about for days: Providing more than $300 million to ensure that whenever a vaccine is developed, Americans will be able to receive it even if they cannot pay for it, the aide said. 

The spending package will be introduced on the House floor Wednesday afternoon and will need to pass in the House and Senate before it is sent to Trump’s desk. The measure largely has bipartisan support but a few issues, such as keeping costs low for treatment and an eventual vaccine, left Democrats and Republicans divided.

The $8.3 billion in funding will replace the $2.5 billion the White House requested from Congress last month, which both sides of the aisle agreed wasn’t enough to battle the rapidly spreading virus, which has killed at least nine people in the U.S.

In its request, the White House told congressional leaders it needed $1.25 billion in funding at the Department of Homeland Security and hoped to redirect other funds, including $535 million previously approved for the Ebola crisis in 2015, that would push the amount to $2.5 billion. 

All of the U.S. deaths from coronavirus have come from Washington state. Washington accounts for 27 of the 118 cases so far reported in the U.S., and state officials said 231 people are under public health supervision.

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