The Biden Administration is set to cease distributing at-home COVID-19...

The Biden Administration is set to cease distributing at-home COVID-19 tests this week. Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

The federal government is indefinitely suspending free distribution of COVID-19 tests to homes across the United States, because the Congress isn’t providing the necessary funding to continue, according to the official COVIDTests.gov.

Under the sunsetting program, first announced during the omicron surge late last year and ramped up in early 2022, anyone can fill out a one-page form online or call 1-800-232-0233, and the government will send several boxes of the rapid, antigen tests.

That all ends Friday.

“Ordering through this program will be suspended on Friday, Sept. 2 because Congress hasn't provided additional funding to replenish the nation's stockpile of tests,” read a notice on the government’s website, whereas of Monday afternoon anyone could still order a third set of tests.

So after Friday, except for discrete giveaways by governments, politicians, clinics and nonprofits, the tests must generally be purchased at cost at retailers such as Walgreens, Walmart, CVS and Target.

The city's public system of hospitals and health clinics also has announced that it was suspending an at-home PCR testing program as of Sept. 9, although rapid tests would still be available for pickup at hundreds of "community-based locations.” Information is available at 844-NYC-4NYC, according to the system’s website.

President Joe Biden announced late last year that the federal government would purchase roughly a half billion at-home COVID-19 rapid tests to be distributed free across the United States. The government’s website was coordinated through the U.S. Postal Service.

As of May, over 70 million households had visited the government's COVID website to get the tests, leading to about 350 million free tests being sent out, the White House said on May 17. That’s more than half the households in the United States.

At a news briefing at the White House on Monday, Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We have already distributed over 600 million tests through this program, and every household has had the opportunity to place three orders for a total of 16 tests.”

The program was announced within weeks of a sarcastic comment with Jean-Pierre's predecessor, Jen Psaki, when asked why the United Kingdom was better able to make tests available there.
“Why not just make ’em free and give ’em out, make them available everywhere?” a reporter asked.
“Should we just send one to every American?” Psaki responded, sarcastically.
“Maybe,” the reporter said.

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