Sen. Bob Menendez Wants Full Funding to Fight Spread of Coronavirus Virus

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread worldwide, including a recent scare at a North Jersey port, a New Jersey senator is pressing the Trump Administration for more funding.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez wants the federal government to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts in light of the global Coronavirus outbreak, which has infected tens of thousands of individuals and killed more than 500 worldwide.

The need for funding comes after Gov. Phil Murphy announced all four passengers from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship that docked in Bayonne Feb. 6 tested negative for novel coronavirus. Three of the four people stayed in a cabin together and were diagnosed with the flu. The other person stayed in a separate cabin and did not have any symptoms. 

“New Jersey currently has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and the risk to residents remains low,” stated Murphy.

Seeking Full Funding

“The fact there has been no significant spread of the coronavirus throughout New Jersey or the nation does not mean we should ignore this growing global health care challenge,” said Sen. Menendez on Feb. 10.  “It’s important that all levels of government—federal, state and local—continue to work seamlessly on a coordinated response to this new strain of coronavirus.  It’s imperative that our state gets the resources, guidance and support it needs to keep New Jerseyans safe.”

Menendez said he has been in contact with federal agencies and their state partners to ensure a robust and comprehensive response to this latest global outbreak.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, the senator expressed concern the Trump Administration’s annual proposed funding cut for pandemic preparedness and response efforts could threaten the government’s ability to effectively combat the spread of the deadly virus. 

According to Menendez, the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget would have cut over $4.5 billion to select offices that combat pandemics, a reduction of nearly 20% from fiscal year 2019 levels. 

“Such reductions, if proposed in the upcoming fiscal year 2021 budget and enacted, would severely limit the federal government’s capacity to respond to emerging viral and biological threats, as well as to contain and minimize the spread of the current novel Coronavirus outbreak,” warned the senator in his letter.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified Congress that it may need to reallocate over $130 million to be able to continue response efforts to Coronavirus, indicating that current funding levels may be insufficient.  

Learning From Ebola, SARS

“As we have learned from past public health crises such as the Ebola, SARS, and H1N1 outbreaks, pandemics require an aggressive, coordinated response across the federal government,” the letter stated.  “In light of the current novel Coronavirus outbreak and the persistent threat of global pandemics, we urge you to fully fund infectious disease and pandemic preparedness and response efforts in your fiscal year 2021 proposed budget.

“A failure to do so would not only be a danger to the health and welfare of all Americans, but also a threat to our national security.”

The World Health Organization declared on Jan, 30 the Coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, a designation reserved for extraordinary events that pose a public health risk by threatening to spread internationally. While the immediate health risk to the American public is considered low , the U.S. government has sought to dramatically escalate its response efforts, which has required some agencies to tap into additional funds. 

The letter was signed by Sens. Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gary Peters (D-MI), ranking members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member of the Appropriations, and Health Committee and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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