CHN: Zika Packages Proposed, House Passes Opioids Bills, Flint Money Included in Senate Water Bill, Flint Webinar Resources Available

While Congress still hasn’t approved emergency supplemental funding to assist with the fight against the Zika virus, the opioid epidemic, or the lead contamination crisis, there has been some movement in all three areas.
As was noted in the appropriations article in this Human Needs Report, a $1.1 billion emergency supplemental spending package to fight the Zika virus emerged from the Senate on May 12, with the hopes of attaching it to the THUD appropriations bill. The Senate is expected to vote on this supplemental, which does not require offsetting cuts, as an amendment this week. Two other Zika proposals are expected to be voted on in the Senate as early as May 17, including one that would provide the full $1.9 billion requested by President Obama and another that would provide $1.1 billion but would include $1.2 billion in offsetting cuts, with the money coming from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The House is also expected to vote on a Zika proposal that would provide $622.1 million and would require offsets to pay for it. 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.

The House last week passed 17 bills related to the combatting the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. On May 13, they voted to replace the text of a Senate-passed opioid bill (S.524) with the text of all of these bills combined. The amalgamated House bill would, among other things, establish Justice Department grants to help states expand programs for prevention and treatment of drug abuse, allow the funds to be used for treatment alternatives to incarceration for parents whose children would end up in foster care, and make it easier for states to provide access to naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug. The House bill would authorize $103 million annually for five years, roughly $20 million more per year than the Senate bill. The House bill would require the money come from existing Justice Department funding, however. In fact, neither the House nor the Senate bills actually provide any additional emergency supplemental funding to fight the epidemic, despite repeated calls for this from Democrats and the White House. The House and Senate bills could now head to conference, where the differences in the bills would be worked out.

Money to aid Flint, Michigan and other communities affected by lead-contaminated water was included in a bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on April 28. The Water Resources Development Act reauthorization bill (S. 2848) would authorize grants of up to $300 million over five years to help communities replace lead service lines, and would authorize $1.4 billion in grants for small and poorer communities to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Provisions in the bill are similar to the Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act, legislation that advocates have been pushing for. When the bill might be taken up by the full Senate – and how the House will react – remains to be seen.

The Coalition on Human Needs co-hosted a webinar on May 3 that covered 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. To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

For additional information on these emergency situations, see our April 25 Human Needs Report.

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