Federal government’s free COVID-19 testing program halts this week due to lack of funding

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With COVID-19 funding drying up and no new injection of funds from Congress, the Biden administration announces that it will suspend its offer of free rapid home tests through COVID.gov.

The program will be put on hiatus later this week.

“Orders through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2, because Congress has not provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s testing stockpile,” read an alert banner on the federal website. The US Postal Service’s free test page also noted the program’s impending shutdown.

A senior administration official told ABC the decision to suspend the program was “to preserve our remaining limited supply” — specifically, to have a reserve in case a potential new wave of the virus sweeps the country in the coming months – “so that we can ensure that we have a limited supply of tests available in the fall, when we may face a further rise in infections and a more acute need.”

A Covid-19 home iHealth rapid antigen test provided free of charge by the U.S. Postal Service is pictured in Hudson, New York, February 6, 2022.

Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

“The administration has been clear about our urgent needs for COVID-19 response funding. We have warned that Congressional inaction will force unacceptable compromises and undermine our overall COVID-19 preparedness and response – and that the consequences would likely worsen over time,” the senior administration official said.

“We were also clear that failing to provide resources to prepare would mean that if a surge were to occur later, the cost to the US taxpayer would be even higher. Unfortunately, due to limited funding with we need to work on, we’ve had to make impossible choices about which tools and programs to invest in — and which ones we need to scale back, pause or stop altogether,” the official said.

Of the billion free tests President Joe Biden pledged to secure earlier this year, so far more than 600 million tests have been distributed through COVID.gov/tests, the top official said. administration, offering “every home” the “opportunity” to get a total of 16 tests in the three rounds of orders the government has opened up to the public.

The senior official added that the administration “will continue to work within its limited existing resources to secure as much additional testing as possible.”

“Congress has not provided the COVID funding we need to replenish the nation’s testing stockpile, simple as that,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. “It’s an action we’ve been compelled to take that will help preserve our remaining limited supply.”

Orders through the program will cease on Friday.

Meanwhile, the tests will still be distributed at 15,000 federally supported community sites, such as pharmacies and local libraries. Americans with eligible insurance can also still be reimbursed for home testing through their private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, the administration official said.

“In addition, the administration continues to ensure equitable access to testing through a number of programs, including free tests distributed directly to long-term care facilities, schools, daycares and centers. early learning, community health centers and food banks,” the official said. the official said.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and vaccinations at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, March 29, 2021.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and vaccinations at the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, March 29, 2021. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

“If Congress provides funding, we will quickly resume distributing free tests through [COVID.gov/tests]”, said the manager. “Until then, we believe that saving the remaining tests for distribution later this year is the best solution. “

Over the spring, lawmakers failed to secure an additional $10 billion in funding for the program.

Then-press secretary Jen Psaki said in April: “The program that reimbursed doctors, pharmacists and other providers for vaccinating uninsured people had to end today due to lack of funds. the hospital will be exhausted by the end of May. Our test manufacturing capacity will begin to decline at the end of June,” adding that the failure of the Senate vote to secure additional funding at the time was “a step backwards for our ability to respond to this virus. .”

Democrats have pledged to continue the fight for additional funding this fall. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Leahy of Vermont introduced a $21 billion emergency funding bill in late July and promised — along with panel co-authors Patty Murray, D-Wash ., and Chris Coons, D-Del. – to have it adopted this year.

ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

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