Thursday, 6 November 2014

Obama seeks $6.2 billion to combat Ebola

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President Barack Obama asked the U.S.
Congress on Wednesday to approve $6.18 billion in new emergency funds this fiscal year to combat Ebola where it is raging in West Africa, as well as in the United States.

According to documents provided to Congress, the administration wants lawmakers to provide $4.5 billion in funds for immediate response to the deadly disease and another $1.5 billion in contingency money.

The White House wants $1.83 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent, detect and respond to the Ebola epidemic and other diseases and
public health emergencies abroad and in the United States. An additional $1.98 billion would
go to the U.S. Agency for International Development for foreign assistance in the Ebola crisis.

In a letter to House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Obama said his top priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans, and the request would cover that.

"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," he said.

The White House wants an additional $127 million for the State Department to expand its medical support and evacuation capacity.And
$112 million would go to the Defense
Department, including funding to support efforts to develop technologies relevant to the Ebola
crisis.

That would include using antibodies from Ebola survivors and survivors of other infectious diseases to provide immunity to the disease as a stopgap until a vaccine is available.

The administration is also asking for $1.54 billion for a contingency fund, divided between Health and Human Services, USAID and State to ensure resources are available to adapt as
the crisis evolves.

The request followed mid-term elections on Tuesday in which Republicans took control of
the U.S. Senate from Obama's fellow
Democrats and increased their majority in the House.

Concern about the Ebola outbreak played a major part in election campaigning, with Republicans portraying the outbreak as one of
many areas in which Obama's policies have fallen short.

The Ebola outbreak has resulted in nine cases treated in the United States since August, including a Liberian who died on Oct. 8 in
Dallas.

The Senate and House Appropriations Committees are assembling a $1 trillion spending package to fund a wide range of
federal programs for the rest of the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30. The Ebola request would be folded into that bill, to be debated by Dec. 11,
when existing government funds run out.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner, said congressional appropriators would review Obama's request. "We'll continue to work with
our members and the administration to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the public from a deadly disease," he said.

The public's attention on Ebola has waned since the federal government and the governors of New York and New Jersey clashed over quarantine guidelines for returning travelers from the afflicted region.
Absent of a new case in the U.S., the focus has turned back to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the disease has cost nearly 5,000 lives.

Source: Al Jazeera

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