May 27, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Request Additional $350 Million in Federal Funding to Prepare for and Respond to H1N1 Influenza Virus

As Confirmed Cases of the Virus Continue to Rise, Funding Necessary to Address Budgetary Shortages That Threaten Local, State, and National Response Efforts

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced their push to include no less than $350 million in the final Supplemental Appropriations bill to upgrade state and local ability to prepare for and respond to the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus and other potential pandemics. The Senators are asking that this money be included in addition to funding already set aside for the Department of Health and Human Services to address vaccine development and general preparedness. As the virus continues to spread and communities begin to mobilize, this emergency funding will address state and local budgetary gaps that threaten response efforts to the emerging outbreak. In New York, there are currently 343 cases of the H1N1 influenza virus, with the number of infected expected to rise.
 
“As new H1N1 cases continue to be reported across New York City, New York State, and the nation, the time to act is now,” Schumer said. “This additional funding will provide communities the ability to gather resources in order to protect the public from the new influenza virus. I pledge to continue to work with Senator Gillibrand to ensure that New Yorkers are safe.” 
 
“This funding will help sustain our efforts to protect citizens from the threat of the H1N1 virus and any future spreading of the virus,” said Senator Gillibrand.  “As a parent and a lawmaker, my number one focus is making sure our schools are safe for our children and teachers.  Our public health officials and local leaders are doing an outstanding job responding to the virus, but Washington must step up to the plate and support their efforts.”  
 
In New York, the Center for Disease Control has confirmed 343 cases of individuals diagnosed with the H1N1 influenza virus.  During the last month, New York City closed at least 20 schools after documenting confirmed cases of H1N1, with the number of school closures increasing daily. Public health departments throughout the state are facing shrinking budgets but have growing caseloads. Additional funding is not only necessary, but critical to an effective response effort that includes hiring and training public health department professionals, temporary employees, and consultants to investigate the disease and implement preparedness plans to respond to the outbreaks, as well as purchasing vitally important laboratory supplies and equipment. However, the need for additional funding stretches across the country. As of May 24, 6,764 individuals have confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza throughout the United States and the virus has claimed eight lives.
 
The investment of at least an additional $350 million for state and local preparedness and response is needed to strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure and ensure all individuals affected by H1N1 receive urgent and targeted care. As more and more people in the U.S. are relying on public health departments to provide critical information, treatment, and protective measures, additional funding specifically for state and local preparedness and response will provide those on the front lines with the resources necessary to limit the potential damage of this virus.
 
State and local funding is needed to allow public health departments across the country respond effectively to current outbreaks and to enhance preparedness planning for any future spread of the H1N1 influenza virus. It is essential that the state and local public health workforce be reinforced to enable enhanced influenza surveillance, case detection, epidemiological investigation, laboratory testing and disease mitigation in the event that the H1N1 virus continues to spread or returns in a more dangerous form.