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Schumer calls for $8.5 billion to fight coronavirus outbreak

Government preparing for coronavirus outbreak

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. as other countries race to contain the deadly virus.

"Congress must act swiftly to confront the threat of this global health crisis," Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement. "This proposal brings desperately-needed resources to the global fight against coronavirus. Americans need to know that their government is prepared to handle the situation before coronavirus spreads to our communities."

Schumer urged Congress to move swiftly on his $8.5 billion funding request, which is more than three times higher than the $2.5 billion plan outlined by the White House earlier this week.

The Trump administration asked lawmakers on Monday to provide $1.25 billion in new emergency funds for its response to the coronavirus. The administration is also asking permission to use $535 million initially allocated for Ebola prevention and treatment.

A senior administration official told CBS News its $2.5 billion request, which includes money repurposed from other federal agencies, "was carefully developed based on current and expected expenditures and will fully fund our robust all-of-government response to coronavirus."

"We'll continue working with Congress to get this done," the official said.

President Trump will receive a briefing on the coronavirus outbreak from the administration's coronavirus task force this afternoon, according to a White House official. Mr. Trump is also expected to hold a press conference on the efforts to combat the virus Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Democrats have scoffed at the Trump administration's plan to address the coronavirus. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it "meager" and "anemic" on Wednesday, while Schumer said it was "too little and too late."

The Democratic senator's request includes $1.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $1 billion for vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health. The plan also allocates $3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, $2 billion for reimbursements to state and local health departments and $1 billion for the USAID's Emergency Reserve Fund.

Since the coronavirus epidemic started in China late last year, more than 80,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide. The death toll now stands at more than 2,700.

The CDC warned Tuesday it's likely inevitable that the virus will spread within the U.S. 

Sara Cook and Julia Boccagno contributed to this report.

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