Steny Hoyer: House expected to vote next week on COVID-19 relief despite Senate struggles

The House is expected to vote by next week on legislation to provide more than $15 billion in COVID-19 relief as dollars to reimburse providers for uninsured treatment, testing and vaccination claims dry up.

But it remains unclear whether the legislation will make it through the Senate after objections from Republicans who want the funding to be offset with other cuts.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday that he was hopeful the Senate will come to an agreement on the legislation, which he expects to pass the House before the chamber goes on its Easter recess next week.

“We believe this is an emergency and would justify emergency funding as we have had with previous COVID bills,” he told reporters. “I don’t want to go home for a week break without having passed COVID-19 dollars that are needed to save lives. This is a life and death matter.”

The White House originally asked Congress for $22.5 billion in fresh relief funds. The money would be used to buy more doses of COVID-19 vaccines and related treatments as well as to replenish a fund that pays providers for treating, testing and vaccinating uninsured patients.

Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has doled out roughly $19 billion in reimbursement for uninsured claims, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The group added that 60% of the claims went to reimburse for testing, with 31% for treatment and another 9% for vaccine administration.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials have said that without additional money the federal government will not be able to have enough vaccine doses for everyone to get a fourth dose, although there are enough for seniors.

HHS stopped receiving claims for uninsured treatments and testing March 22 and will no longer reimburse vaccination claims April 5.

Congress had trimmed down the White House’s $22.5 billion request to $15 billion, but the funding was stripped from a must-pass omnibus spending bill after objections from Republicans who were asking for an offset.

A group of 35 Senate Republicans wrote to the White House earlier this month (PDF) asking for information on how COVID-19 relief already approved has been spent.