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  • Washington Highlights

    White House Requests $1.9 Billion in Emergency Zika Funding

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The White House Feb. 22 asked Congress for approximately $1.9 billion in supplemental funding to respond to the Zika virus both domestically and internationally.

    “This request supports the necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system, detect and respond to any potential Zika outbreaks at home, and to limit the spread in other countries,” President Barack Obama wrote in a cover letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.)

    The AAMC joined more than 50 organizations in a Feb. 23 letter to appropriators in support of the White House’s request. The letter states, “We believe that emerging infectious disease threats like Zika require ongoing vigilance, but the particular risks from this virus require immediate, additional investments.” The letter also urges Congress “to allocate new money for the response, rather than repurposing funds that are designated for Ebola response and global health security.”

    The supplemental would support the Zika response at the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

    The White House proposes more than $1.5 billion for HHS, including $828 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other HHS funding would go to the National Institutes of Health ($130 million), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ($246 million), and the Food and Drug Administration ($10 million).

    House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) previously sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, urging the administration to pursue the use of current unobligated funds, including Ebola funds, to meet the immediate needs of response to the Zika outbreak.

    “If the aim of the request is to mount as rapid a response as possible, it is clear to us that the most expeditious way to identify the needed funding is to maximize the use of unobligated funds previously provided for Ebola response, prevention, and preparedness in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015,” the appropriators’ letter states. “These funds can and should be prioritized to meet the most pressing needs of mounting a rapid and full response to Zika.”

    Congress provided $5.4 billion in emergency funding to combat Ebola in December 2014.

    Administration officials have said much of that money is still needed for detecting future threats in developing countries, expanding vaccines and treatment for Ebola and rebuilding the health care infrastructure in West Africa.

    The appropriators note that within HHS, of the $2.767 billion provided for Ebola response, $1.440 remains unobligated as of December 31, 2015. Within USAID and the Department of State, of the $2.526 billion provided for Ebola response, approximately $1.3 billion remains unobligated.

    “If additional funds are then needed to backfill the use of these funds in the future, we stand ready to consider such a request as part of the FY 2017 appropriations process,” the letter continues. “But if an urgent response is what is required, then it seems clear that substantial funds are already available without any further delay.”