New $6B Ebola funding request would dwarf previous commitment

The White House is asking Congress for $6.18 billion in additional funding to fight Ebola, dwarfing previous requests.

The administration submitted the formal request to lawmakers on Wednesday. It calls for more than $4.5 billion for the immediate response to the disease and $1.5 billion for a contingency fund to make resources available if necessary.

{mosads}In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Wednesday, President Obama said the funds were needed for a comprehensive plan to target Ebola in West Africa, improve preparedness domestically and accelerate the development of vaccines and treatments.

“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,” said Obama in the letter.

“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.”

“Without emergency funding, agencies will not have sufficient resources to adequately address the Ebola epidemic,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan added in a separate letter. 

House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing confirmed the panel received the request, which she said lawmakers will “carefully examine” over the next month. Congress must pass a new government spending bill before the current one expires on Dec. 11.

Lawmakers have spared over Ebola funding, with Democrats claiming budget cuts left the public at risk to the disease. Republicans claimed federal health agencies failed to use their funds wisely.

Wednesday’s multibillion-dollar request is a giant jump from the money Congress has already approved.

Congress approved the administration’s full $88 million request for the anti-Ebola response in September. Lawmakers also signed off on shifting $750 million in Pentagon funds toward the Ebola response.

The new money for the immediate response would be divided between public health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and for humanitarian needs overseas.  

Funding requested for the contingency fund would be distributed between the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department and international aid organizations.

The resources would be used for training healthcare workers, acquiring protective equipment, managing Ebola treatment units, tracking the disease, education and outreach, for burial teams and to address food insecurity, Obama said in the request.

The focus on the Ebola epidemic in the United States has died down in the run-up to the midterm elections as some of the diagnosed patients fully recovered.

President Obama and other officials have emphasized it’s important for the United States to eradicate the disease at its source in West Africa.

The U.S. has already deployed more than 2,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa where the disease has killed nearly 5,000 people.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to convene next Wednesday when Congress is scheduled to return to Washington for the lame-duck session.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are among the witnesses scheduled to testify.

— Justin Sink contributed. 

— This story was last updated at 3:16 p.m.

Tags Boehner Ebola John Boehner Shaun Donovan Sylvia Burwell

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