News Briefs

Democratic U.S. Senators urge federal funding for state distribution of COVID vaccine

By: - November 30, 2020 1:00 pm

The U.S. Capitol (photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images).

WASHINGTON — More than a dozen U.S. Senate Democrats are urging congressional leaders to include “robust” funding in any coronavirus relief package for states to prepare for vaccine distribution.

“Dedicated funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution is especially critical now as jurisdictions are facing historic budget shortfalls amid the pandemic and funding for health departments had been inadequate even before the COVID-19 pandemic began,” according to last week’s letter.

The letter’s 17 signers include Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The senators argue that the money is needed to ensure a competent vaccine distribution, which is likely to start in late December. Public health experts have estimated as much as $10 billion is needed for distribution, training personnel and storing the vaccine, according to the letter.

“In addition to facilitating vaccine distribution, these activities are also important for building vaccine confidence, particularly as recent data indicates that more than 40 percent of Americans would not be willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the Democrats said.

More than 258,000 Americans have died of coronavirus and more than 12 million are infected.

The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Congress is currently locked in a stalemate on a coronavirus relief package. The House in October passed a $2.2 trillion package for economic relief for states and unemployment benefits, but McConnell has backed a slimmer $519 billion bill.

Unemployment is at 6.9 percent, with more than 11 million people in the U.S. unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana Figueroa covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes The Missouri Independent. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance. Before joining States Newsroom, Ariana covered public health and chemical policy on Capitol Hill for E&E News. As a Florida native, she's worked for the Miami Herald and her hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune and NPR. She is a graduate of the University of Florida.

MORE FROM AUTHOR