CHN: Senate Makes Headway on Emergency Funding for Zika; New Flint Funding Bill Introduced
In addition to the requests for emergency funding for lead poisoning and opioid abuse that were attached to spending bills in the Senate (see related appropriations article in this edition for more information), Senators took additional measures to move emergency funding to fight the Zika virus and lead contamination. CQ reported that top Republicans and Democrats from Senate appropriations committees are working together on an emergency supplemental measure to provide funding to combat the Zika virus. It is not yet clear whether the measure will provide the total $1.9 billion asked for earlier this year by President Obama. Senate appropriators hope to attach the measure to an appropriations bill on the Senate floor “in the near future” with the hopes of getting it to the President’s desk.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are also expected to introduce legislation that would fully fund the administration’s $1.9 billion request. Whether either measure could receive enough support in the House is still unclear. The White House had previously announced that $589 million would be redirected from Ebola funding to fight the Zika virus. As CHN noted in this blog post, major cuts to public health funding have left health departments unable to deal with a serious outbreak of the Zika virus, which has a potentially disparate impact on low-income people.
In an effort to address the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan and other communities, 28 Senate Democrats introduced a comprehensive bill last Wednesday, April 20 to update the country’s water infrastructure and help local water utilities replace lead pipes. The Testing, Removal and Updated Evaluations of Lead Everywhere in American for Dramatic Enhancements that Restore Safety to Homes, Infrastructure and Pipes Act of 2016, or True LEADership Act (S. 2821), includes two bills introduced earlier this year, the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016 and the Copper and Lead Evaluation, Assessment and Reporting Act of 2016 (CLEAR ACT). According to lead sponsor Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) website, the bill would provide $70 billion over the next decade through loans, grants and tax credits to establish mandatory testing and notification of lead in water systems, help schools assist children with lead poisoning and improve the country’s water infrastructure, among other things. A bill to help Flint replace its corroded pipes remains stalled in the House.
Advocates have been continuing to push the Senate to pass a bill to provide nearly $250 million to assist with the repair of water infrastructure in Flint and other localities affected by lead-contaminated water. Advocates also continue working to ensure the federal government acts to protect all children and families in federal housing programs from lead poisoning by supporting the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016.
The Coalition on Human Needs is co-hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 3 at 1pm ET that will cover expert evidence about the consequences of lead poisoning in children, examples of work being done in Flint and Philadelphia to stop this scourge, and timely information about Congressional proposals to fund the solutions. Advocates can register here.
For additional information on these emergency situations, see our March 14 Human Needs Report.