Tags: coronavirus | testing | HHS | federalfunding

Billions Earmarked for Coronavirus Testing Remain Unspent

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By    |   Friday, 21 August 2020 03:34 PM

Large amounts of federal funds set aside to increase coronavirus testing across the country are yet to be spent, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Months after Congress allocated money to help boost virus testing efforts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said billions of dollars are still available.

Lawmakers set aside about $25 billion for federal agencies and states to tap into to expand testing, develop contact-tracing initiatives and broaden disease surveillance.

But according to HHS records, only about 10-15% of the funds have been accessed or committed to a project.

Of the $25 billion, about $10.25 billion was sent to states and U.S. territories in May to expand testing and develop contact-tracing programs. But as of mid-August, just $121 million had been drawn down, according to HHS records.

HHS spokeswoman Mia Heck told The Journal that the reasons for the lack of spending differ. She said some states are still figuring out what testing and contact-tracing services they think will be the most effective. She noted it can take time to send out bids and award contracts and then pay for the services.

HHS won’t know how the funds were used until the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30., she added.

Heck also noted that $8 billion of the $25 billion is to be spent at the discretion of the HHS. She said that a lot of the funds haven’t been distributed yet.

Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association, told The Journal that “no health department or state can cry poor during this health crisis.”

“It’s not a matter of more money. It’s a matter of using the money that has already been given to counties and states effectively,” he said.

Of the $25 billion in funds for testing, another $5.7 billion was to be sent to various government agencies involved in testing, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. HHS reports that as of this week, $1.62 billion of those funds had been obligated or committed to the agencies, according to HHS.

Agencies including the National Institutes of Health are to use the funds to buy diagnostic and serological tests, source lab supplies and develop new testing technologies.

Federal relief packages also included $2 billion to pay for testing of people without insurance. So far, $235.5 million has been spent on the initiative, according to records.

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Large amounts of federal funds set aside to increase coronavirus testing across the country are yet to be spent, The Wall Street Journal reports...
coronavirus, testing, HHS, federalfunding
Friday, 21 August 2020 03:34 PM
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