President Donald Trump signed an emergency supplemental spending bill Friday to aid the US’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The spending package will make available $8.3 billion in federal assistance to government health officials and to support research and development of a vaccine. Trump initially sought only $2 billion to fight the virus, but Congress quadrupling that amount in its version of the bill.
“We’ve signed the 8.3 billion,” Trump told reporters Friday. “I asked for two and a half and I got 8.3 and I’ll take it.”
According to CNBC, more than $3 billion will go to vaccine research, development, and therapeutics. Around $2.2 billion will go to preparedness and prevention efforts, and $1 billion will be used to purchase medical supplies and support Community Health Centers.
The spending measure also includes language that opens remote telehealth services to people on Medicare, or US adults over the age of 65. By allowing Medicare patients to speak with their doctor remotely, there will be less risk of them getting anyone else sick on their way to the doctor’s office.
After deliberation, the spending measure sailed through Congress receiving a 415-2 vote in the House and a 96-1 vote in the Senate. The only senator to oppose the bill was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
The coronavirus is believed to have originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. More than 3,200 people have died due to the virus and thousands more have been infected.
On Tuesday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told Congress that the World Health Organization (WHO) could announce that the coronavirus outbreaks across the globe have evolved into a pandemic once there are more cases resulting from person-to-person contact.