An infant in Brazil born with microcephaly is examined by a neurologist. The Zika virus is thought to cause microcephaly.

An infant in Brazil born with microcephaly is examined by a neurologist. The Zika virus is thought to cause microcephaly. Felipe Dana / AP

Zika Emergency Funding Can’t Wait, White House Tells Congress

Sitting on the administration's $1.9 billion emergency request is “playing with fire,” budget director says.

This story has been updated

Efforts to thwart the spread of the Zika virus should be funded immediately, before tourist traffic and the rainy season hit the Caribbean and Central America, the Obama administration warned on Wednesday.

Stepping up pressure on a Congress behind on its budget schedule, White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan announced that agencies have identified $589 million – including $510 million of existing Ebola resources within the Health and Human Services Department and the State Department with USAID -- “that can quickly be redirected and spent on immediate, time-critical activities such as mosquito control, lab capacity, development of diagnostics and vaccines.”

The administration in February had requested an emergency infusion of $1.9 billion to combat the mosquito-borne virus that particularly threatens pregnant women and their children, who risk contracting microcephaly. But Congress suggested agencies re-direct existing funds from last year’s campaign to combat Ebola in West Africa. Donovan said that even though agencies have identified funds that can be redirected, lawmakers must not delay in meeting the administration’s full request.

“Given the uncertainty and risk, we should not play with fire,” Donovan said in a conference call with reporters that was followed by a blog post. “The American people should not have to be panicked for Congress to do their job.”

The budget director said the administration “has always been open to using existing funds, but that’s not sufficient” because the repurposed funds will run out and delay or eventually halt actions to raise public awareness and reduce the mosquito population in such locations as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa. “It’s unacceptable to be in a position of choosing between funding Zika or Ebola,” he said.

Asked to respond, Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman Stephen Worley told Government Executive, “It makes sense for the administration to use existing funds to address the Zika outbreak. In the meantime, the committee will continue, throughout the regular appropriations process, to confer with administration officials and outside experts to determine a thoughtful, timely and fiscally responsible response to global public health threats.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters there are 672 confirmed Zika cases in the continental United States and its territories, 64 of them pregnant women. Citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map, she said cases have been confirmed in cities as far north as San Francisco, Kansas City and New York City. She said CDC has 31 employees working at a converted Dengue clinic in Puerto Rico to protect the blood supply, control mosquitos and educate the public on the risks. A summit on Zika last week drew participation from 30 states, Burwell added, and the National Institutes of Health is planning a phase 1 trial of five vaccine candidates for September.

 “Without funding, we do risk undermining our ability to respond,” Burwell stressed. “We face global challenges from Zika and Ebola, and we don’t have the option of setting aside one for the other.”

Heather Higginbottom, deputy secretary of State for management and resources, told reporters that State on Tuesday had sent Congress notice under a provision of the fiscal 2015 appropriations act that her department has begun redirecting funds toward Zika. Donovan stressed that State’s move does not affect other agencies’ spending on Zika.

Citing the importance of “our foremost duty to protect the health and safety of U.S. citizens,” Higginbottom said State and USAID were working with the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization on a Zika prevention campaign of “aggressive, proactive worldwide implementation.”

But State, she added, “must continue to be vigilant in West Africa,” where the Ebola situation remains a live issue. “Without new funding, we won’t be able to control mosquitos, educate or care for mothers and children,” she said. “We must begin now, before the summer months and the rainy season in the Caribbean and Central America increase the risks for more Americans.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., in February wrote to 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.”

On Wednesday, Rogers and Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., said via email, "More than a month ago we called on the administration to use existing funding and legal authorities to provide the most immediate and effective response to the Zika outbreak. We are pleased to hear today that federal agencies are heeding our call. These resources – which the agencies already have on hand – will help stop the growth of this devastating disease around the world, and prepare for and protect against outbreaks within our borders.

“We will look carefully at the details of today’s proposal by the administration to ensure the best and most effective use of these funds, and to provide proper oversight.  As we move forward, the Appropriations Committee will continue to monitor the changing needs resulting from this unpredictable crisis to assure the resources necessary for the response are available.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.