Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced legislation that would allow COVID-19 funds to be used for disaster recovery efforts.
The Prioritizing Disaster Relief bill would, in Sen. Paul's words, reallocate funding "for a better purpose."
“We tend to run out of the money in the disaster fund every year anyway and it has to be re-allocated so I think finding that money from a place where it’s already been spent once to a place where it can be saved and used for a better purpose is a good idea,” Paul said.
Paul has been highly critical of the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Often objecting to policies like vaccine mandates, as well as pushing back against requirements and regularly sparring with the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci at Congressional hearings.
Paul does not have any co-sponsors on this proposed legislation, but has signaled informal support from his colleagues.
“But we have a lot of allies in the sense there have been other folks saying that too much was spent," Paul said. "I would say the vast majority of the Republican Caucus thinks too much was spent on COVID and we shouldn’t spend more on COVID.”
The White House made a $22 billion funding request to keep the federal COVID-19 response going. However, last week in an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes," President Biden said the “pandemic is over." He later added that the U.S. still has "a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot to work on it.”
Republicans are using these comments to push back against any additional request for funding. Fauci and other public health experts say additional resources are still needed and worry Biden's comments may have set them back. Fauci told Politico that what Biden "really meant is that the very severe stage of the pandemic of having … 3,000 deaths a day — that stage is no longer present,” but that “people should not be cavalier that we’re out of the woods.”
Biden's comment seems to at least somewhat reflect public sentiment, according to a recent survey from Ipsos and Axios: While only 33% of Americans agreed with the statement that the pandemic is over, 46% said that they have returned to their pre-pandemic lives, the highest figure recorded at any point during the pandemic.
Fauci said that "we are not where we need to be if we are going to quote ‘live with the virus,'" adding: "We still must be aware of how unusual this virus is and continues to be in its ability to evolve into new variants which defy the standard public health mechanisms of addressing an outbreak."