Two top Senate Democrats said the Trump administration has “still failed” to distribute more than $14 billion out of $25 billion relief bill that had been appropriated by Congress as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“While it has been months since these funds were first appropriated, the Administration has failed to disburse significant amounts of this funding, leaving communities without the resources they need to address the significant challenges presented by the virus,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said in letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Sunday.
$8 billion from the bill had been set aside to expand testing and contact tracing for the virus as spikes continue to pop up around the country, the senators said.
The Democrats’ letter comes after Trump said in a rally speech in Tulsa on Saturday that he had requested of his staff to “slow down the testing” for COVID-19.
Trump has railed against increased testing showing an increase in COVID cases as he has come under intense criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 120,000 Americans.
Although his campaign team said that the comments were made in jest, the president also dodged when asked whether he directed members of his administration to stifle testing.
“We do more testing than any other country by far,” Trump told a reporter in an interview of Monday.
Amid growing concerns about the racial and ethnic disparities brought into focus by the pandemic, the letter pointed at the need to fund data collection that would better identify communities hard hit by the virus so that better support could be provided in those areas.
The letter also said that $4 billion in funding had not yet been awarded by the CDC to efforts in public health surveillance, and additional and contact tracing.
The remaining $2 billion from the relief pot had been designated solely to guarantee testing for the uninsured, by paying claims made by providers for tests. As the funds go largely unused – and in some cases are otherwise slowed by disbursement issues in the claims process – Trump has repeatedly applauded himself for doing more for Black people who are among the hardest hit by the virus, than any administration preceding him.
“This Administration will put our country at grave risk if it tries to declare an early victory, leave lifesaving work undone, and leave resources our communities desperately need sitting untouched,” the lawmakers wrote.
Read the full letter below: