President Donald Trump’s administration has requested Congress release $2.5 billion in funding to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The White House said late Monday that the funding would be used for research efforts to develop a vaccine against the virus and to purchase treatment and preventive equipment and supplies.

At least 53 cases have been confirmed in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University data, as the global tally crosses above 80,000.

“Today, the administration is transmitting to Congress a $2.5 billion supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities, and to procure much needed equipment and supplies,” White House budget office spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said, according to the Associated Press. “We are also freeing up existing resources and allowing for greater flexibilities for response activities.”

Health and Human Services (HSS) Secretary Alex Azar testifies in Washington, D.C. HHS is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to prepare for the growing global threat of coronavirus.

The Trump administration has only requested $1.25 billion in new funding, meaning that the other half needs to be diverted from existing programs, including $535 million from an Ebola preparedness fund.

Democrats controlling the House wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month to request coronavirus funds.

“Despite urgent warnings from Congress and the public health community, the Trump administration took weeks to request these emergency funds,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement. “Their answer now is to raid money Congress has designated for other critical public health priorities.”

Leading Democrats, including Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also criticized the move.

“We have a crisis of coronavirus and President Trump has no plan, no urgency, no understanding of the facts or how to coordinate a response,” Schumer said, according to the Associated Press.

“The President’s request for coronavirus response funding is long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency,” Pelosi stated. “The President’s most recent budget called for slashing funding for the Centers for Disease Control, which is on the frontlines of this emergency. And, now, he is compounding our vulnerabilities by seeking to ransack funds still needed to keep Ebola in check.”

Trump defended the government’s response to the outbreak in a tweet on Monday.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart,” Trump tweeted. “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

This story originally appeared on Benzinga.

© 2020 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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