Among the many provisions in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that appear to have little to do with the immediate crisis at home is a nearly $11 billion pot of money for three international development groups.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) – which the House of Representatives is expected to vote on Friday – includes the funding for the African Development Fund (ADF), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Development Association (IDA).
The ADF and the AfDB are two related organizations that help fund development and poverty eradication efforts in Africa, whereas the IDA is a subsidiary of the World Bank that gives to poor countries in general. Combined, they will receive more than $10.8 billion under the CARES Act.
This amount includes $7,286,587,008 for the AfDB, $513,900,000 for the ADF and $3,004,200,000 for the IDA.
As the costliest stimulus measure in U.S. history, the bill has generated a mixed and often-conflicted reaction even from those advocating for it. The package contains sorely needed relief for struggling workers facing layoffs as businesses are forced to temporarily shutter on an unprecedented scale in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus. But some have questioned the massive pot of money set aside for loans to big industries, while others have challenged the array of seemingly unrelated or tangential funding pipelines that made their way in.
Controversial appropriations tucked into the coronavirus stimulus package include $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with a stipulation that the funds are to help deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. There is no such language connected to the AfDB, ADF or IDA provisions.
The inclusion of these funds comes after a plea from the Center for Global Development (CGD) for the U.S. to include funding for international organizations in its coronavirus relief package, citing the possibility that even after the virus is under control in the United States, it could see a resurgence if there are not strong enough efforts to suppress it worldwide.
“[T]o put it bluntly, the United States will not be safe from this pandemic until the world is safe from this pandemic—without widespread access to a vaccine or countermeasures, cases rebound quickly when quarantines are lifted as has been shown in Singapore and Hong Kong this week,” read a letter the CGD sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week.
The funding for these three international organizations was not an 11th-hour addition; it was included in the original Republican version of the coronavirus bill.
The striking $2.2 trillion price tag of the CARES Act, meanwhile, has been more a point of pride for both Republicans and Democrats, considering the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences, than a concerning federal expenditure. But at least one House member has raised the alarm about the amount of spending in the bill.
“This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people,” Rep Justin Amash, I-Mich., a former Republican, tweeted Wednesday. “It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.”