At least 85% of the $25 billion Congress approved for coronavirus testing has yet to be disbursed to expand testing

  • A very small fraction of the money approved by Congress to boost coronavirus testing has actually spent yet, the The Wall Street Journal reported. 
  • Congress approved the funding in April, and as of August 14, only about 10% to 15% of those funds were spent or committed to the cause. 
  • In May, $10.25 billion of the allocated amount was sent to states and US territories. As of August 14, only $121 million had been drawn from the fund. 
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Only about 10% to 15% of the $25 billion dollars approved by Congress to boost coronavirus testing has been spent or committed to an effort, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Congress set aside around $25 billion in April to be given to federal agencies and states so they could expand COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing, however according to the Department of Health and Human Services, months after the funds were approved, only a fraction of it has actually been used. 

According to WSJ, while $10.25 billion of the allocated amount was sent to states and US territories in May, only another $121 million was taken out of that fund as of August 14. 

Last month, The New York Times reported that while cases surged in the US, testing was not expanding fast enough to handle the surge.

As of July 22, the country averaged 780,000 tests a day, an 80% increase since the beginning of June, but daily coronavirus cases grew by 215% in the same period. 

There was a 4.8% positive rate at the point, which indicated that more people who were being tested were positive, and testing needed to be expanded even more. 

"If cases are declining with the number of tests being performed, it is important to look at the percent positivity of tests," Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Business Insider earlier this month. "If that statistic is increasing, that tells you that the outbreak is growing and the number of cases declining is a testing artifact."

While the US has ramped up it's testing, Business Insider reported that backlogs continue to be a problem. 

As of August 3, the US is administering 174 tests for every 100,000 people per day, however, "many labs are now receiving more test orders than they are able to process in a single day," the American Clinical Laboratory Association reported in their July 14 update. 

WSJ reported that different states and agencies have varying reasons for not spending the money from trying to figure out what the most effective approach is, to struggling to solicit bids and award contracts. 

HHS spokeswoman Mia Heck told WSJ that the department won't know how exactly the money was spent until the end of the fiscal year. 

"No health department or state can cry poor during this health crisis," Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association told WSJ. "It's not a matter of more money. It's a matter of using the money that has already been given to counties and states effectively."

Heck said that more than $8 billion of the fund was allocated for HHS to use, and most of that hasn't been distributed either. 

According to John Hopkins University, testing was down in 21 states this week. The weekly average of new tests was 709,347 on Thursday which is less than the average of 781,156 a week, the month before. 

Only $235.5 million has been spent from the $2 billion specifically allocated to test those who are uninsured. 

Without sufficient testing it's hard to know the exact scope of the outbreak, Business Insider reported. Many public health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have stressed the importance and need for adequate testing in the battle to get the virus under control in the US. 

So far more than 5.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the US with over 175,000 deaths. 

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