Written by: Andrea Martin. Media by: Charley Phillips.
President Barack Obama has requested $6.2 billion from Congress to fight Ebola that is spreading quickly through West Africa and to stop a future outbreak in the U.S.
Top senators from both political parties have indicated a willingness to move quickly to approve Obama’s plan. As of now, the Obama administration has stated that $2 billion of the total would be apportioned to the United States Agency of International Development and $2.4 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services. $1.5 billion would then be up for contingency fund to deal with any unanticipated developments such as a wild outbreak, like the one in West Africa, or the need to vaccinate U.S. health care workers.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has expressed that the funding should be closely monitored and scrutinized in order to ensure that the money is being spent wisely. However, he did not oppose the plan.
“If the history of disease outbreaks has taught us anything, it is that things can change quickly and without warning,” Shelby said. “Our federal agencies must be ready to aggressively implement a clear and organized strategy.”
The White House is asking for a swift and prompt action considering the lame duck season is finally starting to settle in, and while Democratic Party is still in control of the Senate. The money would be on an “emergency” basis. This means it would be added to the deficit. If the Republican Party agrees on the same terms, they may call for spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
This task, however, may not be all set in stone. The Republican Party has criticized the administration’s domestic response while using certain security measures as examples as to how uncoordinated it was in response to Ebola entering the U.S. There have been only a handful of cases of Ebola in the U.S. that have been nothing quite like the epidemic in West Africa.
The $4.6 billion in immediate spending would be used to strengthen the public health system in the U.S. and would also be used to combat the spread of the disease in West Africa. Going along with this immediate spending would be speeding up development and testing vaccines and other therapies. To help vulnerable foreign countries, some money would be going towards raising awareness on how to detect and respond to the disease.
The Obama administration would set up more than 50 Ebola treatment centers around the country, obtain safety suits, and strictly monitor travelers arriving in the U.S. President Obama has made funding to treat Ebola his top priority as the new Congress takes over after the midterm elections.
“My foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans, and this request supports all necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system and prevent any outbreaks at home,” President Obama said in a letter to Congress in advance of the hearing. “Over the longer term, my administration recognizes that the best way to prevent additional cases at home will be to contain and eliminate the epidemic at its source in Africa.”