02.07.20

Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak, Peters, Leahy, Murray and Menendez Press Trump Administration to Fully Fund Pandemic Preparedness and Response Efforts

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today urged the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak, which has infected tens of thousands of individuals and killed more than 500 worldwide. Peters, Leahy, Murray and Menendez serve as the Ranking Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Committee on Foreign Relations, respectively. 

 

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, the Senators expressed concern that the Trump Administration’s annual proposed funding cut for pandemic preparedness and response efforts could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed dramatic cuts to programs and offices that spearhead efforts to respond to this and other pandemics, including a 2020 budget proposal that cut critical pandemic response programs by nearly 20 percent.

 

“As we have learned from past public health crises such as the Ebola, SARS, and H1N1 outbreaks, pandemics require an aggressive, coordinated response across the federal government,” the Senators wrote. “In light of the current novel Coronavirus outbreak and the persistent threat of global pandemics, we urge you to fully fund infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response efforts in your fiscal year 2021 proposed budget. A failure to do so would not only be a danger to the health and welfare of all Americans, but also a threat to our national security.”

 

On January 30th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, a designation reserved for extraordinary events that pose a public health risk by threatening to spread internationally. While the immediate health risk to the American public from 2019-nCoV is considered low at this time, as deaths and infections from Coronavirus continue to rise, the U.S. government has sought to dramatically escalate its response efforts, which has required some agencies to tap into additional funds. Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified Congress that it may need to reallocate over $130 million to be able to continue response efforts to Coronavirus, indicating that current funding levels may be insufficient.

 

Text of the letter is copied below and available here:

 

February 7, 2020

 

 

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney
Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Director Mulvaney:

 

We write to express concern regarding the Trump Administration’s previous attempts to cut funding for infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response and to urge you to fully fund such efforts in your fiscal year 2021 proposed budget, as the world addresses the current outbreak of novel Coronavirus. As of today, the virus has infected over 28,000 individuals, causing over 500 fatalities across the globe. Here in the United States, the total number of infections has increased to 12 individuals in six states, including two human-to-human transmissions. It is vital that the federal government has the resources available to respond to this growing threat and protect the American people.

 

The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed budget cuts to the offices that spearhead emerging infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response. The President’s fiscal year 2020 budget would have cut over $4.5 billion to select offices that combat pandemics, a reduction of nearly 20% from fiscal year 2019 levels. Such reductions, if proposed in the upcoming fiscal year 2021 budget and enacted, would severely limit the federal government’s capacity to respond to emerging viral and biological threats, as well as to contain and minimize the spread of the current novel Coronavirus outbreak. Just last week, the Department of Health and Human Services notified Congress that it may need to reallocate over $136 million to be able to continue response efforts to the novel Coronavirus, indicating the current response demands additional resources.

 

As we have learned from past public health crises such as the Ebola, SARS, and H1N1 outbreaks, pandemics require an aggressive, coordinated response across the federal government. In light of the current novel Coronavirus outbreak and the persistent threat of global pandemics, we urge you to fully fund infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response efforts in your fiscal year 2021 proposed budget. A failure to do so would not only be a danger to the health and welfare of all Americans, but also a threat to our national security.

 

 

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