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While the Obama administration complains that Congress hasn’t appropriate emergency funding to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the federal government is sitting on hundreds of millions of available but unspent tax money. That’s according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. According to Grassley, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services identified $589 million in funds already available but largely unspent more than three months after the health emergency was declared in January.
“[Federal] agencies have been slow to distribute available federal funds to fight the illness and short on effective strategies and information to the public.”–Sen. Chuck Grassley
Grassley issued a statement saying, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an annual budget of $11.7 billion. The taxpayers have the right to expect that these agencies are ready to protect all of us from public health threats. I look forward to answers on how the $589 million to fight Zika is being spent, as well as information on what the agencies are doing with their existing resources. Agency actions ought to reflect the level of urgency in agency comments about the Zika outbreak.”
Zika has been brought into the U.S. from those who travelled to Zika-infested countries. CDC says it expects Zika to spread as more travelers enter the U.S. and, while in the infectious stage, are bitten by mosquitoes who then transmit the virus to others. Zika is considered a mild disease; the vast majority of those who get it do not become ill and have no symptoms. Scientists differ on whether Zika is to blame for a rash of serious birth defects in Brazil but not seen in other Zika-infested nations. After several months of debate, CDC adopted the position that Zika and the birth defects are related.