United States Senate Approves $1.1 Billion Zika Package, Part Of Stop Gap Bill
By Allison Nielsen, Sunshine State News // September 30, 2016
Senators voted 72-26 to pass the legislation
(Sunshine State News) – The U.S. Senate approved a plan to fight the Zika virus Wednesday, the first sign of legitimate legislative progress on the issue in several months.
The Senate approved a $1.1 billion package to combat the virus, which began spreading throughout the Sunshine State in the summer. It was part of a larger Stop-Gap bill to prevent a government shutdown.
Senators voted 72-26 to pass the legislation.
National lawmakers have gone back and forth for months over a funding solution to fight the Zika virus. Democrats did not approve a previous bill proposed by Republicans because it had provisions which would have prevented Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico from receiving federal funds and would have waived environmental laws governing the use of pesticides.
Wednesday’s compromise eliminated the Planned Parenthood provisions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 23,000 people have contracted the Zika virus in Puerto Rico and in the U.S. Though most people infected with the virus are asymptomatic, it can be especially dangerous for pregnant women since it can cause birth defects in unborn fetuses.
Zika is known to cause microcephaly, a condition where the baby’s head and brain are underdeveloped.
There were 92 cases of Zika in pregnant women at the time of this article’s release.
The virus has been particularly problematic in South Florida, where local transmissions began occurring in late July in the downtown Miami area.
Congress’ inaction on the funding prompted Gov. Rick Scott to funnel more than $61 million in state funds to help fight off the virus and to equip Florida counties with the supplies necessary to prevent Zika from spreading.
Pest control companies and Miami Dade County officials have been working overtime to combat the virus in the Miami area. The virus initially began spreading in Wynwood, but later expanded into the Miami Beach area.
The money set aside in Florida will be used to expedite the development of a vaccine to prevent infection and develop cost-effective ways to test for the virus.
“We must focus on finding a vaccine and enhancing our Zika testing capabilities to further protect pregnant women and their developing babies,” Scott said in a statement.
Federal funding will also aim to find a vaccine for the virus and will help prevent its spread across the country.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where it is likely to be passed.
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