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Why We Need a Public Health Emergency Fund

Last summer, we witnessed the Zika virus become a national public health crisis that unfolded across the country. Following President Obama's emergency funding request for $1.9 billion in February 2016, tens of thousands of cases of the Zika virus were reported in the United States and its territories, including thousands of cases in pregnant women. Despite continued calls from the medical and research communities, Congressional Republicans delayed acting on the President's request, letting it languish for months as more Americans contracted the virus.

Rosa strongly believes that funding a response to national public health emergencies should be determined by public health professionals, not Members of Congress. When American lives are on the line, the government should be able to mount a robust response in order to fight public health epidemics quickly. Currently, there is a fund that is available to the Secretary of Health and Human Services upon a declaration of a public health emergency. However, since it has been in existence, the public health emergency fund has only been provided funding twice and currently sits nearly empty.

To address this issue, Rosa has introduced the Public Health Emergency Fund Act to allocate a one-time payment of $5 billion to the existing public health emergency fund. By dedicating funding ahead of time, Rosa's bill would help stop Congress from robbing funding dedicated to responding to existing public health emergencies, while also ensuring that the government is better prepared. This legislation is critical in our efforts to better respond to future public health emergencies and will help save lives.

As the Editorial Board of the Washington Post writes, "Funding disputes in Washington will always be intense. But it is time to take infectious disease outbreaks seriously and establish a more stable financing mechanism for fighting them, such as a proposal by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) to create a $5 billion public health emergency fund that would be ready for a rapid and flexible response when viruses and bacteria suddenly run rampant."

"The obvious answer is to establish a permanent pool of money that federal health authorities can tap into quickly, much like the disaster relief fund that enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond quickly to hurricanes and other natural disasters," the Editorial Board of the New York Times writes. "A bill introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, would put $5 billion into an existing public health emergency fund that was created in 1983 but has been largely dormant."

As the Senior Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services, Rosa is committed to ensuring the health and well-being of Americans and taking proactive steps to prevent and respond to public health emergencies.

For more information on the Public Health Emergency Fund Act, click here.

To learn what Rosa did in Congress to fight the Zika virus, click here.