Biden administration to divert $860M in COVID funding to house unaccompanied minors

Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Biden’s border crisis is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars. The latest move by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra is to reallocate $860M from COVID relief funds to pay for housing unaccompanied minors. This isn’t the first time funding has been shifted around and likely won’t be the last time.

Becerra sent a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Tuesday that HHS needs the money for safety and care for the unprecedented numbers of children crossing the southern border. The money will also be used to fund staffing costs at shelters. A Biden administration official said that HHS costs for housing unaccompanied migrant children had gone up by $1.7 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to precautions the government has needed to take. If you believe what Becerra is serving up as a reason for the money transfer then you believe that the need is because of pandemic mandates, not the flood of migrants at the border. This is Becerra’s way of keeping the administration’s narrative that there is no border crisis intact.

In his letter, Becerra wrote that the pandemic — not the crisis fueled by hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants rushing the border month after month — was to blame for the high cost, arguing it “placed significant demands” on his agency.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines require the agency to quarantine children upon receiving them, as well as ensure that emergency intake shelters have proper measures in place to keep those kids apart.

To meet this demand, Becerra explained, his department drastically reduced the number of usable “state-licensed shelter beds.”

In May, HHS diverted $2B meant for health initiatives to cover the cost of caring for unaccompanied minors. At that time a former Obama administration official said there is no choice but to fund operations for illegal migrants. What he didn’t say was the Biden border crisis is a manmade one of Biden’s own doing.

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. Another $850 million is being taken from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

On its own, the $2.13 billion in diverted money exceeds the government’s annual budget for the unaccompanied children program in each of the last two fiscal years. It is also far above the roughly half-billion dollars that the Trump administration shifted in 2018 toward sheltering a migrant child population that had swelled as a result of its strict immigration policies, including separating children from adults at the border.

In addition to transferring money from the Strategic National Stockpile and Covid-19 testing, HHS also has pulled roughly $436 million from a range of existing health initiatives across the department.

“They’ve been in a situation of needing to very rapidly expand capacity, and emergency capacity is much more expensive,” said Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute who led HHS’ Administration for Children and Families from 2013 to 2015. “You can’t just say there’s going to be a waiting list or we’re going to shut off intake. There’s literally not a choice.”

Wasn’t the Trump administration criticized by partisan hacks for not properly restocking the national stockpile before the pandemic? The stockpile had been depleted by the Obama administration and not replenished before they left the White House. Any of those same people speaking up about the national stockpile now?

The money will come from funding allocated to the National Institutes of Health. Becerra reassured lawmakers that he consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He said this move will not “disrupt or impede planned NIH activities.” If $860M can so easily be taken from NIH’s funding, isn’t it reasonable to say that their funding is excessive? It sounds like it is.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and HHS Secretary Becerra can say there is no Biden border crisis but the numbers do not lie. Asking for this kind of additional funding – $2B in May and now $860M in July – points to a crisis level of illegal migration. There are more than 170,000 illegal crossings a month and that has been consistent for three months, according to the government reports. The numbers are due to come out his week on last month’s crossings. I’m willing to bet that nothing has changed. Becerra is within his rights to move the money as long as he notifies Congress. It’s proof, though, of the severity of the problems created by Biden’s very poor decision-making just to own Trump. He decided to undo all of the Trump administration’s successful policies and this is where we are now.