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May 2016
POLICY AND ADVOCACY
House and Senate far Apart on Zika Funding, IDSA Advocacy Continues
IDSA continues advocacy in support of President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to address the Zika virus both in Zika-endemic countries and within the United States. The requested funding would increase international capacity for surveillance, expand the Field Epidemiology Training Program, laboratory testing, and healthcare provider training; as well as accelerate R&D for medical countermeasures, including vaccines and diagnostics.
 
The Zika funding request had been largely stalled on Capitol Hill, since introduction in February, as the House and Senate debated if and how to pay for the emergency package. The White House, IDSA, and other advocates have argued that this emergency effort should not be funded by diverting funding from other domestic and global health programs. The Administration has already transferred roughly $589 million from Ebola resources to begin the response, including the evaluation of vaccine candidates, in light of the failure of Congress to act. 
 
In mid-May, the Senate and House of Representatives advanced very different Zika funding bills. The Senate bill would provide $1.1 billion, slightly more than half of President Obama’s request, to address Zika. The bill is not offset and would allow funds to be used in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill, considered a compromise among leaders of the Senate’s spending committee, is likely to gain support from the White House. Simultaneously, on a party-line vote, the House approved $622 million to address Zika by moving funds from other health priorities. Funds in the House bill would only be available through the end of the current fiscal year, September 30. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. Agreement on a final package will likely prove difficult to achieve, as the chambers are quite far apart in approach to the problem. Advocacy for at least the level of funding provided in the Senate bill will be extremely important in the days ahead. 
 
In support of the emergency funding request, IDSA has met with staff to key Members of Congress and written to leadership in both chambers. IDSA members are encouraged to contact their congressional representatives in support of Zika funding. In just three minutes, members can use the IDSA-HIVMA Action Center to support the Zika funding request.
 
During its advocacy work on Capitol Hill, IDSA policy staff have consistently shared messages that ID physicians hold leadership roles in domestic and international public health bodies on the front lines of the Zika virus response. ID physicians are also leading research efforts to learn more about Zika virus and develop urgently needed diagnostics, vaccines and therapies. IDSA and our members are also working to educate the public about Zika virus, including recommended precautions for pregnant women and the importance of preventing mosquito bites. Public health emergencies, such as the current Zika virus outbreak, underscore the need to invest in a robust ID physician workforce to ensure future generations of these invaluable experts are available to protect the public health. 


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