Trump administration robs health programs for poor to pay for coronavirus response

The Trump administration is robbing the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which pays for heating and cooling assistance to the poor (which in turns helps keep them healthy), of $37 million to go toward its COVID-19 response. It's taking $139 million away from health programs in total, The Hill reports. This is money the administration can move around without congressional approval. "[That] is reprogramming we believe undermines health care protections for the American people. […] It's out of one pocket, into the other. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, we think, is not a good policy," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Hill.

That includes $63 million from the National Institutes of Health; $4.9 million from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (because we can't fight both the opioid epidemic and coronavirus at the same time with Trump in the White House); and $4.2 million from the Aging and Disability Services Programs (because why help elderly and disabled people in an epidemic?). No money will be diverted from Trump's border wall, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress Wednesday.  

Azar also told the House appropriators that there are only 17 million masks for use by medical professionals in the U.S. stockpile of medical supplies, and 5 million may have expired. He said we need 300 million, and will need to ramp up production of them in the U.S. because we rely on China for many of them. So that's great. Peter Marks, head of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told Bloomberg News, "We're dependent, for some of our medical products 90 percent or more, on imports" including gowns, masks, and syringes.

by Joan McCarter

Daily Kos Staff