One of the unquestioned benefits of a strong national government is the ability to share the cost of a natural disaster across the entire nation. The cost of Superstorm Sandy was too much for New Jersey alone. There is a natural disaster looming and our legislators are playing politics with the funds to prepare. Not only could preparation contain the cost of this disaster, but it could protect the lives and health of thousands.
Puerto Rico reported the first case of the local transmission of the Zika virus in December, 2015. By April 2016 the CDC had reported 683 confirmed cases in the US, with the first fatality on April 29. Five cases of Guillain-Barre are believed to have been caused by the virus. As of June the 9th the Center for Disease Control reported 3 babies born with related birth defects and 3 lost pregnancies.
The CDC estimates the virus will spread in a similar pattern to Dengue fever, with local infections beginning in the hot summer months. In Brazil, where local infections are already occurring, there have been almost 3,500 cases of microcephaly in less than one year. Consider the emotional, physical and monetary cost of caring for these developmentally disabled children for life.
On February 29th of this year President Obama presented Congress a plan and request for $1.9 billion to study and prepare for the Zika virus.
The US Senate responded with legislation May 17th for $1.1 billion in a bipartisan bill.
The US House passed legislation for only $660 million. They also recommended using an additional $600 million from money that had been allocated--but not spent yet--for Ebola. They did not address how the money for Ebola would be replaced.
As of June, the GOP controlled Senate and the GOP controlled House have not reached a compromise and no funds have been authorized to fight this natural disaster in the making. Southern states are now in the prime season for transmission of Zika. Hopefully some compromise will be made in time to avoid unnecessary illness and death.