Congress budgeted $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus in legislation approved Wednesday to fund the government through December, with more than $126 million allocated to the territories.
“I am pleased to see Congress finally take this issue seriously and approve funding to assist in the fight against Zika. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have been on the front lines of this public health emergency for months and I have fought alongside many of my colleagues at every turn to ensure adequate attention – and ultimately resources – was paid to this matter," Delegate Stacey Plaskett said in a statement Thursday.
"Although it is short of the $1.9 billion requested by the White House, the funding approved by Congress is a major step forward and will provide at least $126 million to the Virgin Islands and the other territories,” Plaskett said.
The passage of the funding legislation, commonly referred to as the continuing resolution, comes amid the territories’ months-long battle to fight the spread of Zika. There are currently 410 cases of Zika in the U.S. Virgin Islands and another 20,000 confirmed cases in Puerto Rico and American Samoa.
The Virgin Islands will also benefit from additional funding provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
The Continuing Resolution provides:
– $394 million to the CDC to support mosquito eradication, surveillance, laboratory testing, education and outreach, as well as to reimburse state and local public health departments;
– $397 million to the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to support advanced research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics;
– $141 million to support health care services – including contraceptive services and maternal and child health services – to prevent the spread of Zika. Of this amount, at least $126 million is reserved for Puerto Rico and the territories;
– $145.5 million to support international health care services, including vector control activities and technologies, vaccines, diagnostics and building up health care infrastructure;
– $30 million for personnel costs for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, including evacuation and care for ill American diplomatic and development workers.
“This funding and the recent support to the territory’s small business community shows that Congress, when pressed, will do what’s right by the territories. And that is really a part of our larger efforts here in Washington to ensure the Virgin Islands receives equal treatment and its fair share of available funding,” Plaskett said.