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Politics

Houston Congressmen Call For Nearly $2 Billion In Emergency Funding To Fight Zika

Reps. Gene and Al Green are pushing for Congress to appropriate the full amount the White House has requested for the effort to combat the mosquito-borne disease. The House of Representatives has allocated less than a third, while the Senate has agreed to little more than half.

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  • Reps. Gene Green (l.) and Al Green signing letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding request for Zika funding.
    Reps. Gene Green (l.) and Al Green signing letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding request for Zika funding.
  • Rep. Al Green (l.) calls for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.
    Rep. Al Green (l.) calls for emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.
  • Rep. Gene Green (r.) calling for emergency appropriations to combat Zika.
    Rep. Gene Green (r.) calling for emergency appropriations to combat Zika.

President Obama is repeating his call to Congress to appropriate $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus. Congressmen Gene and Al Green say that level of funding is essential to Houston, given both its vulnerability to the virus and the role the city would play in fighting an epidemic.

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week appropriating $1.1 billion to fight Zika. The House of Representatives is now considering a smaller bill for $622 million.

Much of the money for the House bill would come out of emergency funding set aside to combat Ebola, as Congressman Gene Green told an audience at El Centro de Corazón health clinic in Houston's East End.

"Ebola has not been cured," he said. "It's still around, and we need to walk and chew gum. We need to be able to do research on Ebola. We need to do research on Zika, so ultimately, we'll find some type of vaccine or cure."

Congressman Al Green said much of the burden of treating Zika in the U.S. would fall on the Texas Medical Center, largely in his district.

"We have the finest medical facility in the world — the finest in the world — and people will be coming from all over the country to this Medical Center. Texas Children's Hospital has been designated as a pediatric center for these types of cases. So they're preparing, they're gearing up, but they do have to be properly funded," he said.

Both congressmen noted that Houston is particularly exposed to Zika. The mosquitoes that transmit the virus are already well established here. And the city's two major airports carry heavy traffic to and from Latin American countries where the disease has already reached epidemic proportions.

 

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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