Health agency funding hangs in balance with new government spending bill needed in December; Senator asks for robust funding in president’s next budget, omnibus appropriations bill

BOSTON (October 9, 2014) -- During the government shutdown of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was forced to limit its capacity to investigate outbreaks. And budget cuts in recent years have led to the loss of 44,000 jobs in local health departments across the United States, leaving states vulnerable and ill-equipped to respond to infection disease emergencies. And that was before the worst outbreak of Ebola in history, which has tested our own country’s systems to beat back a deadly disease.

Just weeks from today, the current government spending bill will expire, and funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year could be cut for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. To respond to this funding crisis that could leave Americans vulnerable to diseases, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today wrote the president and Senate leaders asking for robust funding in both the president’s budget and in an omnibus appropriations bill, not another stop-gap government spending measure.

In his letter to President Obama, Senator Markey outlines the ongoing threats from budget cuts to CDC, NIH and other health and aid agencies.

“It is imperative that the involved federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Defense and State Department, have adequate funding and resources to support their current efforts and additional efforts that may be necessary in the future,” writes Senator Markey, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development & Foreign Assistance.

“In recent years, budget cuts have led to the loss of 44,000 jobs in local health departments across the United States leaving our state and local governments vulnerable and ill-equipped to respond to infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola and other public health emergencies,” continued Markey. “Ensuring that the United States continues to mount a robust, coordinated and comprehensive response to the Ebola crisis and that the involved multiple federal agencies like CDC and NIH have adequate, sustained and predictable funding to support their efforts is essential to containing this epidemic and reducing the health risks to American citizens.”

Senator Markey’s letter to President Obama can be found HERE

In his letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, Senator Markey writes, “Unfortunately, we have seen what can happen when a continuing resolution expires and Congress fails to enact appropriations to keep the federal government funded and operating.  Last October, after the operating continuing resolution ended and during the government shutdown, the CDC had a significantly reduced capacity in activities related to outbreak investigations and was unable to support state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance. In the event of a government shutdown, it is also likely that the NIH would be forced to halt its work related to the development of Ebola medications and vaccines.  If these sort of critical government functions are interrupted, diminished or reduced amid the current Ebola crisis, the impacts will be felt worldwide.”

Senator Markey’s letter to the Senate leaders can be found HERE.