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Opinion
Christopher Flavelle

Next Ebola Challenge: Spending the Money

Obama wants $2 billion for health care in West Africa. But his administration has struggled to spend what's already available. 
Harder than it looks.
Harder than it looks.

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $6 billion in emergency funds to fight Ebola, including $2 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development to spend on health care in West Africa. But an analysis of federal spending shows that in the five years leading up to the Ebola outbreak, his administration struggled to spend the money Congress had already made available.

From 2009 through 2013, Congress appropriated $243 million for health-related spending in Liberia, the bulk of it through USAID, according to ForeignAssistance.gov. (Guinea and Sierra Leone, the other countries affected by the outbreak, got a fraction of that amount.) Yet the U.S. government managed to spend just $152 million over that same period, or 63 percent.