The federal program that provides free Covid-19 test kits will be suspended later this week, the White House said Sunday.
A notice on the web portal operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, COVID.gov, reads: “Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn't provided additional funding to replenish the nation's stockpile of tests.”
Until then, Americans can order a total of 16 tests per household, with shipping handled by the United States Postal Service.
The Biden administration launched the free testing kit program at the beginning of 2022, and officials say that more than 600 million kits have been distributed so far. The White House has requested more funding from Congress to continue the program, but lawmakers have failed to act, with some Republicans arguing that the administration should use existing funds from other pandemic programs.
“We have warned that Congressional inaction would force unacceptable tradeoffs and harm our overall COVID-19 preparedness and response—and that the consequences would likely worsen over time,” a White House official told CNN. “Unfortunately, because of the limited funding we have to work with, we have had to make impossible choices about which tools and programs to invest in—and which ones we must downsize, pause, or end all together.”
The administration says that test kit distribution would resume if and when Congress provides more funding. There is a growing concern, however, that manufacturers are shutting down production lines, which could make it difficult to provide more test kits should the need – and the funding – arise.