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Government to pause free COVID test orders soon

An alert on covidtests.gov said orders through the program would be suspended "because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding" to replenish supplies.

WASHINGTON — If you're looking to stock up on at-home COVID-19 tests, it may be your last chance to order a batch free of charge from the government.

President Joe Biden committed in January to making 1 billion tests available to Americans, including through covidtests.gov. 

Initially, each U.S. household could make only one order of the rapid antigen tests. The Biden administration later announced a second and then third round of orders were available, totaling up to 16 tests per household.

However, that program is coming to an end — at least for now. 

"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," an alert on the website said starting Friday. 

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The Biden administration in March requested an additional $22.5 billion from Congress to buy vaccines and therapeutics to prepare for a fall spike in COVID-19 cases, but lawmakers balked at the price tag.

Free COVID-19 testing is also available through community testing sites and insurance reimbursement. 

Speaking anonymously ahead of the announcement, a senior administration official told USA TODAY that the program could resume if Congress provided funding, but that remaining tests would otherwise be kept in reserve as officials prepare for the potential fall spike.

The official said the administration will use its "limited existing resources" to secure as many additional tests as possible.

The CDC recommends getting tested for COVID-19 right away if you have symptoms. If you're exposed to the virus but don't have symptoms, the agency recommends waiting five days for a more accurate result. 

As the tests ordered through the government's website take a while to arrive, they're meant to be ordered ahead of time and stored for when you need them. 

The Associated Press contributed. 

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