Most of Florida's Zika money is unspent

Most of Florida's Zika money is unspent
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Federal health officials are pushing back against Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s criticism about the slow flow of money to fight the Zika virus into his state.

Florida has spent only about $3.5 million out of the $27 million that’s been given to the state by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this year, according to a federal health official.

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The state has also been given $8 million in Zika-specific funding that it has not used, according to the source.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health said Friday that the emergency funds, which stretch for the entire fiscal year, had been reserved for other crises. 

Florida already received CDC approval for its year-long plan on how to spend that money, according to the spokesperson, Mara Gambineri, and "any change in scope or redirection of funds" would have required the department to get approval on a new plan. 
 
Gambineri said that "would have an impact on the state’s ability to prepare for other public health emergencies."

Scott, a sharp critic of the Obama administration, released a statement Thursday slamming the Obama administration for a holdup in the Zika funding package passed by Congress in late September.

“It has been two weeks since federal funding to fight Zika was approved by Congress and signed by President Obama. However, Florida has not yet received a dime,” Scott said. “We don’t need bureaucratic timelines — we need funding now.”

Scott added that he has allocated $61.2 million in state funds to combat Zika since the start of the outbreak this summer. Just over 1,000 people in Florida have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne virus, which causes birth defects.

Obama has already signed the $1.1 billion relief package for Zika-affected areas, which was approved by Congress in late September.

But federal health officials had long warned that the Zika funding package would take several weeks to get to affected areas because of the normal appropriations process.

Some of that money will begin to get out the door next week, according to a statement by CDC late Thursday.

Florida will receive $2.6 million from the CDC as part of a $44 million public health emergency fund that was part of the Congress-passed Zika package. 

– Updated at 4:45 p.m.