A new survey shows that three quarters of Americans say Congress should make the allocation of more money to deal with the Zika outbreaks in Florida and Puerto Rico an “important” or “top priority” when they return to Washington.
“People generally do value spending money when there is sort of a public health emergency,” says Mollyann Brodie, executive director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey.
About half those surveyed said they’d be uncomfortable traveling to the areas of Florida where people have been infected by Zika. And 77 percent said pregnant woman are not safe in those areas.
“It is something that the local officials have to take really seriously,” Brodie says, “because in many of those areas the tourism industry is a big part of those communities.”
President Obama asked for $1.9 billion in emergency federal funding back in February to fight Zika. So far, Congress hasn’t allocated anything.
So the administration has been using money shifted from other accounts — including money that had been specified for studying and fighting Ebola, and for state-level emergency preparedness — to address the Zika threat, instead.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says his agency will be out of funds to fight Zika by the end of the month. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell issued a similar warning in August.
But Mark Harkins, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, says that — at least technically — the Obama administration could move even more money from other programs to fight Zika.
Even though lawmakers usually allocate money for specific purposes, the federal budget allows for some shifting of funds, Harkins says.
“As part of the appropriations bills themselves there’s always a provision that says you …