As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the US and around the world — and talks for the next stimulus package have stalled in Congress — non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are calling on US policymakers to include $20 billion in the next COVID-19 emergency funding bill.
"As negotiations ramp up on the next COVID-19 emergency package, we are witnessing dramatically escalating crises on the global stage, creating additional risks for the American people and our fellow global citizens with each passing day," Liz Schrayer, president and CEO of the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), said in a July 17 statement. She pointed to statistics about worsening hunger, GDP forecasts, and COVID-19 cases in developing countries.
"To address these ever-growing needs, we urge Congress to provide at least $20 billion in emergency resources for the international response in the next supplemental," Schrayer said.
USGLC and InterAction — two US-based NGO coalitions made up of hundreds of organizations, including Global Citizen — originally sent letters to congressional leaders in April, urging them to include $12 billion in funding. The funding would have helped support the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic through economic relief, humanitarian assistance, emergency health resources, pandemic response, and the development of vaccines and medical treatments.
However, when the House of Representatives released its COVID-19 emergency funding proposal on May 12, it did not include any funding for the global response.
"The absence of any new emergency funding in today’s House package for the international COVID-19 response is dangerous. As long as COVID-19 is spreading anywhere, Americans are at risk," Schrayer said in a statement following the proposal's release.
"With the humanitarian crisis expanding to weak and fragile countries without the infrastructure to fight the deadly disease, it’s no surprise that there is growing bipartisan consensus among policymakers and voters for America to step up," she added. "The only way to fight a global pandemic is to confront it here at home and around the world in order to prevent a devastating rebound to our shores."
As negotiations on the emergency funding continued, Schrayer again urged lawmakers "to include urgent and robust funding for the international response to COVID-19."
The US must make a serious commitment to providing additional resources to confront COVID-19 across the globe and invest in countries with weak health systems, the coalitions' members argue. Helping vulnerable countries respond to the pandemic will help secure individual health systems and strengthen global health security, too.
The coronavirus does not respect borders, and with 195 of the world’s countries unprepared to respond to a global pandemic, the US will not be safe from COVID-19 unless lawmakers agree to help aid the global response.
Supporting global health security will also protect frontline health workers and help hospitals and health facilities to flatten the curve.
One way to help strengthen these fragile health systems is to allocate funding to global health platforms, such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; and the World Health Organization (WHO).
"We have the tools to prevent [a second wave of COVID-19]," former members of Congress wrote in a new bipartisan letter on May 13. "America’s global health security investments in the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, and the CDC — as well as key global players like the Global Fund and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis — have the unique capabilities and track record to mitigate the impact in the developing world."
So far, USAID and the US State Department have committed around $500 million to help aid the global COVID-19 response, as well as an additional $2.37 billion in emergency funding.
However, experts from USGLC, InterAction, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Global Health Council, ONE, and more calculated that the minimum of $12 billion was required to ensure an effective global response. Now, after the number of COVID-19 cases has dramatically increased and an analysis from the World Bank projects that the pandemic will plunge most countries into a recession, an investment of at least $20 billion is needed, according to InterAction.
Leading the international response to the pandemic also ensures that the US does not cede its global influence to countries that have taken steps to assist more vulnerable nations during the pandemic — a sentiment shared by lawmakers such as Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).
“We have to lift the eyes of the average American from the immediate crisis right in front of us," Sen. Coons said during a briefing in April, "to recognize that if we don't take steps to help stabilize the economies of dozens of emerging markets that have critical debt problems right now and … deliver badly needed and rightly deserved humanitarian assistance, then a moment for us to reassert our place at the table globally will pass us by.”
Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 15, 2020, and has been updated to reflect the renewed ask of $20 billion for the COVID-19 global response and other details.