The federal government is ending its free at-home Covid-19 test program this week, citing a lack of funding and efforts to preserve supply ahead of an anticipated fall surge in cases, a White House official told CNN on Sunday.
Both the White House and the website where people can claim their tests blamed Congress for failing to provide additional funding for the program, which provided up to 16 free tests per household since the beginning of the year.
“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,” the Covid.gov website reads.
The administration launched the initiative, which shipped rapid tests to Americans via the United States Postal Service, in January amidst a wave in Omicron variant cases and limited testing availability. However, officials have warned for months that, absent additional funding from Congress, the administration would be forced to roll back its Covid-19 response efforts.
“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,” the 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.”
Still, the official said the administration would “expeditiously resume distribution of free tests through COVIDTests.gov” if and when Congress allocates additional funding, but “[u]ntil then, we believe reserving the remaining tests for distribution later this year is the best course.”