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The Department of Health and Human Services will reportedly take millions of dollars designated for COVID-19 vaccination efforts and divert the substantial funds to a program for sheltering unaccompanied migrant children who have entered the U.S. at the southern border.
The HHS will reallocate an additional $589 million to the agency’s unaccompanied children program, some of those funds were dedicated to COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Fox News.
“HHS informed Congress that it is diverting $225 million in National Institute of Health (NIH) funding that was part of the December COVID-19 relief bill to the unaccompanied children (UAC) program, as well as $364 million in HHS funding that was passed as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP),” a congressional source told the outlet.
The report noted that $187.5 million was set aside for the Centers for Disease Control for “vaccine planning, distribution, monitoring and tracking” and an additional $25 million for “vaccine confidence activities.” There was also $151 million of the diverted funds that were to go to the “Supply Chain for Vaccines, Therapeutics and Medical Supplies.”
The HHS claimed that the funds being diverted to the border crisis were not planned for any ongoing vaccine efforts, and had no impact on getting Americans vaccinated.
“The Unaccompanied Children program has long relied on funding transfers to meet its mission, and this year faces the additional expense of rebuilding a decimated system while taking pandemic-related safety precautions, such as testing and social distancing,” an HHS spokesperson told Fox News.
The latest reallocation of funds means that the UAC has received over $4 billion in diverted money this year alone, according to the outlet.
A report from Politico surfaced in May that said the Biden administration pulled over $2 billion that was marked for COVID-19 health resources, and sent the money to Biden’s border crisis.
“The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response,” Politico reported at the time. “Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.”
The HHS reportedly took approximately $436 million from a “range of existing health initiatives across the department.”
Politico reported that the $2.13 billion in diverted COVID-19 funds “exceeds the government’s annual budget for the unaccompanied children program in each of the last two fiscal years.”
The HHS’s fiscal year 2022 budget for “Refugees and Unaccompanied Migrant Children” has a total budget of $4.4 billion. In the HHS budget, they are requesting “$3.3 billion for the unaccompanied children program, an increase of $2.0 billion above the FY 2021 appropriation.”
“This investment rebuilds the nation’s refugee infrastructure to support resettling up to 125,000 refugees in 2022, the highest number of refugees admitted to the United States in 30 years,” the HHS stated.
“Funds will support the cost of caring for children referred to ACF as well as reforms to the program to better position ACF to address future surges and implement child welfare best practices,” the HHS said.
The unaccompanied children program’s mission: “Making and implementing the best shelter placement decisions for the unaccompanied children, providing home assessments for certain categories of children, and ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that all UC in custody have access to pro bono legal representation or counsel for immigration proceedings.”
There were more than 19,000 unaccompanied minors detained at the U.S. southern border in July, outpacing the previous high of 18,877 in March, according to the Associated Press. The number of families arriving in the U.S. reached the second-highest total on record in July, and there were a total of 212,672 people apprehended at the southern border.