White House seeks $6.4bn to respond to Ukraine crisis

As it resists a Russian invasion, to support other eastern European nations dealing with the impact and to bolster the Pentagon.
Image: Bloomberg

The White House on Friday told Congress that it will need an estimated $6.4 billion in new funding to assist Ukraine as it resists a Russian invasion, to support other eastern European nations dealing with the impact and to bolster the Pentagon.

Of the new money, $2.9 billion would for humanitarian and security needs for Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Poland and other neighbours of Ukraine under the plan. That would be used for humanitarian assistance, food aid, refugee assistance, as well as energy and economic stabilisation, according to an administration official.

The Biden administration also is seeking $3.5 billion for the US Defense Department to respond to the crisis.

The funds are in addition to the $650 million in security aid and $52 million in humanitarian aid the US already committed to Ukraine over the last year as well as a previous $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee. The request for additional money is likely to get bipartisan support as Democrats and Republicans rush forward with pledges to assist Ukraine.

The combined funds could be added to a broad government spending package that Congress is trying to finish by March 11. Officials caution that the situation is very fluid and that the estimates could change.

The request came following a meeting between Biden administration budget officials and congressional House and Senate leaders as well as lawmakers on key committees.

“My colleagues and I are carefully monitoring the situation and stand ready to provide assistance both to our Ukrainian partners and to our allies in Central and Eastern Europe as they confront this crisis.,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said Thursday in a statement.

Republicans and Democrats are already working on completing an estimated $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package to fund the government after the current temporary spending bill lapses on March 11.  The House draft version of that bill already includes provide $757 million for Ukraine, including $125 million through the Foreign Military Financing Program and $275 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

For now any additional Ukraine spending above is likely to be attached to the larger package, according to congressional aides.   A separate emergency bill with additional money could be voted on later in the year, these aides said.

California Representative Barbara Lee, the chair of the House State and Foreign operations spending panel, said the final level would depend in part on assessments to be made by 20 USAID officials on the ground in the region. She said part of the funding would be to ensure some refugees can seek asylum in the US.

“It is upon us to make sure we do everything we can do to support them as they flee,” she told reporters in California Friday.

Delaware Senator Chris Coons, the chairman of the Senate panel overseeing the State Department budget, said earlier Friday that he expects the US to need at least $10 billion to handle the aftermath of Russia’s invasion.

“I would be supportive of an emergency supplemental of at least $10 billion perhaps more to meet these vital national security and humanitarian needs,” Coons told reporters.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee, has said he is supportive of approving more aid to Ukraine as soon as next week, when the Senate returns to Washington from recess.

Aides said that in addition to the Ukraine funding, a package of emergency Covid-19 relief also is likely to be attached to the annual funding bill. The administration has let Congress know it may need $30 billion for Health and Human Services to fight the pandemic and to prepare for any new variants, as well as $5 billion in immediate global vaccination needs.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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