US hosts global COVID-19 summit with funding stalled in Congress

Top Biden administration officials are meeting virtually with world leaders and representatives from the private sector on Thursday for a global COVID-19 summit.  

The meeting is part of a push to get countries and organizations to increase their commitments to the global fight against the pandemic, but it comes at a difficult time for the White House, which has unsuccessfully been pushing Congress to approve billions more in pandemic preparedness funding.  

Senior Biden administration officials stressed on a call with reporters previewing the summit that the U.S. is at serious risk of falling behind in the fight against COVID-19 if Congress does not approve more funding.  

“The hard-fought progress that we have made and the momentum we have is at serious risk without congressional action,” one senior administration official said. “You will hear a loud call from the United States for Congress to act with the urgency that this virus warrants.” 

For its part, the U.S. is pledging an additional $200 million to a new global health security fund at the World Bank expected to launch later this year, a second senior administration official said. That brings the total U.S. pledge for the fund to $450 million, after Vice President Harris announced the first commitment last September.  

Additionally, the official said that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will pilot “test-to-treat strategies” to reach vulnerable populations in lower-income countries using $20 million in funding.  

In total, the COVID-19 global summit has resulted in over $3.1 billion in new funding commitments, the official said.  

“That would not have happened without U.S. leadership,” the official said. “But if the U.S. is to remain a leader in protecting Americans and the world from dangerous disease threats, we need Congress to act now to provide more funding for the COVID response.” 

President Biden is expected to address the participants in a prerecorded statement. 

Harris will participate in one of the sessions, officials said, and will discuss the impact of the pandemic on American lives and U.S. efforts to address emerging coronavirus variants.  

Other administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha, will also participate in the summit.  

In addition to securing new resources, the summit is focused on increasing vaccinations globally, protecting vulnerable populations and preventing future pandemics. The summit is also being co-hosted by Belize, Germany, Indonesia and Senegal. 

The White House in March asked Congress for $22.5 billion in additional funding to combat the virus, warning that without additional support the U.S. response will suffer.  

Republicans have expressed skepticism about the need for more funds and insisted that new funding be paid for with cuts to other virus aid that was already approved.  

Partisan disagreements have stalled the funding request for several weeks. A deal was reached recently to pay for $10 billion in new funding, but lawmakers with Biden’s blessing de-linked the COVID-19 funds from a must-pass Ukraine aid package earlier this week as it became clear the package would move more slowly with the two combined.