Obama Said to Seek $6.2 Billion in Emergency Ebola FundsJonathan Allen and Roger Runningen
President Barack Obama asked Congress for $6.2 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa and reduce risks for U.S. citizens.
The funding will include about $4.6 billion for immediate actions and $1.5 billion in a contingency fund to assure access to resources as needed, according to a 28-page request to House and Senate leaders from the Office of Management and Budget.
The request is “to ensure that our doctors, scientists and troops have the resources that they need to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa and to increase our preparedness for any future cases here at home,” Obama said today at a White House news conference.
In the U.S., the request would boost public health systems with the funding of 50 Ebola treatment centers, improve readiness with states and increase monitoring of travelers, among other steps, according to documents from the budget office.
Overseas, the goal is to “contain and mitigate the outbreak in West Africa, speed efforts to obtain and test vaccines and therapeutics, and further reduce risks to Americans by helping vulnerable countries” contain the virus, the budget office said.
The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, the main aid group fighting the deadly disease, say the current global Ebola response has been insufficient. More health workers and supplies are urgently needed to prevent the disease from spiraling out of control, the groups have said.
The request seeks $2.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for domestic public health services, infection control, labs, tracking contacts and related needs. Another $2.1 billion is for the State Department and its Agency for International Development, $112 million for the Pentagon’s research agency to develop a vaccine for temporary immunity to Ebola, and $1.5 billion in a contingency fund, split between Health and Human Services, and the State Department and its international assistance programs.
As of Oct. 24, the U.S. has obligated more than $400 million to fight Ebola, the budget office said.
“Today’s administration request for additional funding will be considered thoroughly over the next month, in the context of negotiations on annual appropriations legislation to fund the entire federal government by Dec. 11,” Jennifer Hing, spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, said in an e-mail.
By comparison, Obama requested $30.4 billion to fight the HIV virus in his fiscal 2015 budget, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. There are 35 million people world-wide infected with HIV, according to the WHO.
“In all this work, we must ensure other countries and international organizations continue to share this responsibility and that we coordinate our efforts effectively,” U.S. Representative Anita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
The Ebola outbreak has infected more than 13,000 people and killed about 5,000, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. is sending as many as 4,000 military personnel to the region to build treatment centers and train health-care workers.
A stopgap spending bill approved in September contained $88 million sought by the White House to fight Ebola. Of this total, $58 million was for research and development of Ebola vaccines and $30 million by the Centers for Disease Control’s efforts in Africa.
In October, the U.S. set aside $750 million to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, enough for six months of the Pentagon’s humanitarian operation, including troop deployments. Those funds were from the Pentagon budget.
For the new funding request, the “emergency” designation would mean the additional funding wouldn’t be counted against budget caps.
Anthony Banbury, the head of the UN’s Ebola mission, UNMEER, said that while reporting of new cases has slowed in the areas that were hardest hit there’s a rise in regions that weren’t a problem before.
“Ebola is a real crisis still,” he said in an interview today in Ghana’s capital, Accra. “We need to accelerate the response, and we need to cover a broad geographic area.”