Coronavirus Roundup: White House Says It Hasn’t Given Up on COVID-19 Funding

The White House asked for $22.4 billion for COVID-related needs and $4.5 billion for monkeypox. PAUL MANSFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYGETTY IMAGES

Management

There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 12:48 PM ET

he stopgap funding agreement to keep the government open past Friday does not have the Biden administration’s requested funding for monkeypox or COVID-19. Earlier this month, the White House asked for $22.4 billion for COVID-related needs and $4.5 billion for monkeypox.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked during a briefing on Tuesday if the White House has given up on that funding? “Our near-term priority is keeping the government open — we’ve been very clear about that,” she replied. “We’ve been very clear since early 2022 about our COVID funding needs and have warned that, without congressional action, we would be forced…to make difficult trade-offs.”

Already, there have been cuts to the testing program and “being unable to take action that Republicans and Democrats support to have the United States lead the effort on the next generation of vaccine, the next generation of treatments,” Jean-Pierre noted. “And so, we’re not going to give up.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee announced on Tuesday that Elaine Howle, former California State Auditor, will serve as a special advisor to the committee for state, local, tribal, and territorial oversight. Also, two auditors from the Tennessee Comptroller’s office joined the committee’s new auditor-in-residence program. These are both “first-of-their-kind initiatives that bring together federal, state, and local auditors to advance coordinated oversight of pandemic spending,” said the committee in a press release. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency took action to address inequities in minority and disadvantaged communities with respect to the locations of community COVID vaccine centers, the Homeland Security inspector general said in a report published on Wednesday. “FEMA’s Civil Rights Advisory Group implemented a methodology that prioritized states based on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index],” which “sought to address differences in coronavirus disease 2019 care and outcomes within communities of color and other underserved populations.” Also, the agency’s strategic plan for 2022-2026 “outlines objectives for instilling equity in emergency management,” among other actions FEMA is taking for future planning. The agency concurred with the IG’s two recommendations for further action. 

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have both now submitted applications to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for their updated COVID-19 boosters for kids. Pfizer’s booster is for kids ages 5 to 11 and Moderna’s is for kids ages 6 to 17.

The new director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons testified on Thursday that as of earlier this month, almost 66% of federal inmates and 80% of employees are fully vaccinated. With possible monkeypox exposure in the prison system, BOP is working to ensure they’ve learned lessons from COVID-19, Director Colette Peters said before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Despite President Biden’s remarks that “the pandemic is over,” the Pentagon is “pressing ahead” with its policy, first enacted in March 2020, to help contractors mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

The Defense Department was “inconsistent and ineffective” in verifying or crafting businesses as critical to national security in order to receive certain loans from the CARES Act, the Pentagon’s watchdog said in a report published this week, which it did in conjunction with the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery. “[Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment] officials were unable to fully support the rationale used during the analysis or decision-making process. Ultimately, Treasury Department officials made the final decision to approve Section 4003 loans; however, Treasury officials relied on the analysis performed by [acquisition and sustainment] officials to initiate the loan underwriting process,” said the report. “Furthermore, the DoD’s lack of a documented definition and documentation trail put the Treasury Department at risk of potentially providing loans to companies that were not critical to maintaining national security.” 

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

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