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Trump Defends $2.5B Virus Request      02/25 06:19

   President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the urgent $2.5 billion plan for 
coronavirus he sent to lawmakers will prepare the nation in case of an outbreak 
in the U.S. and help other nations unprepared to handle the threat.

   NEW DELHI (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the urgent $2.5 
billion plan for coronavirus he sent to lawmakers will prepare the nation in 
case of an outbreak in the U.S. and help other nations unprepared to handle the 
threat.

   "We just asked for $2.5 billion on getting everything ready just in case 
something should happen and also helping other nations that really aren't 
equipped to do it," Trump said at a business forum in New Delhi.

   The White House budget office said the funding would be used for vaccine 
development, treatment and protective equipment, but the amount of the request 
was quickly slammed by Democrats as insufficient. The budget request came as 
coronavirus fears were credited with Monday's 1,000-plus-point drop in the Dow 
Jones Industrial Average.

   The rapid spread of the virus and threat to the global economy has rocked 
financial markets, but Trump said he thinks China is getting the epidemic under 
control.

   "They've had a rough patch and ... it looks like they're getting it under 
control more and more," Trump said. "They're getting it more and more under 
control so I think that's a problem that's going to go away, but we lost almost 
1,000 points yesterday on the (stock) market."

   The funding request was released Monday evening and came as key government 
accounts were running low. The Department of Health and Human Services had 
already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was 
seeking to transfer more than $130 million from other HHS accounts to combat 
the virus but is pressing for more.

   The Trump administration is requesting $1.25 billion in new funding and 
wants to transfer $535 million more from an Ebola preparedness account that's 
been a top priority of Democrats. It anticipates shifting money from other HHS 
accounts and other agencies to complete the $2.5 billion response plan. 

   Democrats said that Trump's attempt to go after existing Ebola prevention 
funding was dead on arrival.

   "All of the warning lights are flashing bright red. We are staring down a 
potential pandemic, and the administration has no plan," said Senate Minority 
Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who blasted a shortage of kits to test for the 
virus and Trump's proposed budget cuts to health agencies including the Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have a crisis of coronavirus, and 
President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how 
to coordinate a response." 

   Democrats controlling the House wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar earlier this 
month to request funds to help speed development of a coronavirus vaccine, 
expand laboratory capacity and beef up screening efforts at U.S. entry points. 
Azar was slated to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on 
Tuesday, and the U.S. response to the outbreak is sure to be a major topic.

   The quickly spreading virus has slammed the economy of China, where the 
virus originated, and caseloads are rapidly increasing in countries such as 
South Korea, Iran and Italy. Almost 80,000 people have contracted the disease, 
with more than 2,500 deaths, mostly in China.

   The United States, however, has had only 14 cases of the disease spread 
across seven states.


(KR)

 
 
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