HHS to divert up to $385M from health programs to shelter migrant children

HHS to divert up to $385M from health programs to shelter migrant children

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take up to $385 million from programs, including those that fund cancer prevention efforts, to house an increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children in its care. 

HHS will reallocate millions of dollars from some of its health programs to increase shelter capacity for the "overwhelming number" of migrant children, Secretary Alex Azar told Congressional appropriators in letters this week.

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Children who cross the border without parents or family are often referred to HHS for shelter, food and other services until sponsors are found in the U.S. But HHS's shelters are nearly full, and the agency needs to take funds from other programs to pay for more space, Azar said. 

That includes up to $286 million from health programs that fund Head Start, Alzheimer's care and cancer prevention. Most of the money will come from the Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.

Up to $99 million from within the Office of Refugee Resettlement will also be reprogrammed, Azar said. 

An HHS spokesperson said the funds that will be reallocated are unobligated, meaning they were appropriated by Congress but have not yet been used by the department.

But Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroOvernight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions On The Money: Trump to meet China's vice premier during trade talks | Appeals court says Deutsche Bank doesn't have Trump's tax returns | House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey to retire DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief MORE (D-Conn.), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee's health panel, accused HHS of "robbing vital health and human services initiatives in order to pay for their failed policies." 

"We cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars on the President’s manufactured crisis at the border, which is government-sanctioned child abuse," DeLauro said in a statement. 

HHS also reallocated nearly half a billion dollars in funds late last year to pay for more shelters. 

The Obama administration also transferred $167 million to deal with an influx of arrivals at the border. 

Such requests are not new — similar transfers of money have been used in times of public health emergencies, such as the Zika virus outbreak in 2016.