Obama Wants $1.8 Billion To Handle Zika Virus

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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President Barack Obama’s administration is asking Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, according to a Monday statement.

The president has faced pressure from members on both sides of the aisle to deal with the crisis before it potentially drastically hits the United States.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015- February 5, 2016,” the White House said in a statement. “As spring and summer approach, bringing with them larger and more active mosquito populations, we must be fully prepared to mitigate and quickly address local transmission within the continental U.S., particularly in the Southern United States.”

The virus –which is transmitted through mosquitos and has been linked with serious birth defects – was recently declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization and has been seen in 26 countries.

The vast majority of the funds would be distributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with $823 million going toward “support prevention and response strategies.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be allocated $250 million to provide a one-year increase to Puerto Rico’s Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage in addition to the Medicaid funding the island has already been allotted. Currently, 22 cases have been seen in the U.S. territory.

Around $200 million would go toward vaccine research and the development of diagnostic tests, while $210 million would be provided for an “Urgent and Emerging Threat Fund” and $335 million would be given to the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide foreign aid to affected countries.

The Department of State would receive an additional $41 million to “support critical public health actions underway, including preparedness, surveillance, data collection and risk communication.”

House lawmakers wrote letters to three government agencies requesting information on what they have done to prepare for the crisis and asked whether any of the funds allocated for the Ebola crisis could be used to fight the Zika virus.

While a travel warning has been issued, a ban has not yet been put in place.

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