Obama administration requests billions to fight Ebola virus

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith

Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith

On Nov. 5, the White House sent a formal request to Congress asking for nearly $6.2 billion in emergency funding for several federal agencies to help fight the global Ebola virus epidemic.

The president’s request includes $2.4 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about three-quarters of which are slotted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to respond to the outbreak and other infectious disease threats. It also includes $2.1 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other State Department humanitarian assistance, as well as $112 million for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) efforts to contain the virus.

Congress will debate the administration’s emergency request during the lame duck session as it wraps up its work on the fiscal 2015 spending bills. The government is currently operating under fiscal 2014 spending levels through a continuing resolution that was passed in September and expires on Dec. 11.

The recently passed continuing resolution included $88 million for the CDC’s ground response to the Ebola virus, as well as for the Biological Advanced Research and Development Authority’s efforts to help speed the development and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines that could potentially help victims fight off the disease. The Pentagon also received $750 million in funding to help the military’s efforts in West Africa.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will publicly address the administration’s proposal at a hearing on Nov. 12 on the government’s response to the Ebola virus. HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is set to testify, as is Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and top officials from the CDC, NIH, Pentagon and State Department.

To watch the four congressional hearings on the Ebola virus outbreak which have already taken place, click on the links below:

  • Oct. 24 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform entitled, “The Ebola Crisis: Coordination of a Multi-Agency Response.”
  • Oct. 16 hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations entitled, “Examining the U.S. Public Health Response to the Ebola Outbreak.”
  • Oct. 10 field hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee held in Dallas, Texas, on the Federal, State and Local Coordination and Response to the Ebola Crisis.
  • Sept. 16 joint hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee entitled, “Ebola in West Africa: A Global Challenge and Public Health Threat.”

Since early October, when questions began to arise about the potential for pets to become ill from or spread the Ebola virus, the AVMA has convened and organized several working groups with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, CDC, and other agencies and experts to help develop protocols about the Ebola virus and animals. To learn more about those efforts, visit avma.org/Ebola.

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