December 21, 2001
Federal funds to help battle bioterrorism
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Overburdened state and local public health departments can look forward to $865 million in federal aid next year to help them prepare for a bioterrorist attack.
Since much of the aid may be awarded through competitive grants, it’s impossible to predict how much any state or local agency will
The federal government has given states money to develop bioterrorism programs in the past. Next year’s commitment, however, is much larger and broader as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“If nothing else, Sept. 11 has given people a much greater awareness of the importance of public health because suddenly there are concerns about anthrax, about smallpox, about bioterrorism,” said Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.
Regula is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which has worked with the Senate and President Bush to determine
how much the federal government will spend on public health and bioterrorism. He is chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee
that sets funding levels for health, education and labor programs.
If there were an attack with biological or chemical weapons, local health departments would be the first line of defense. The local
agencies would, in turn, seek support from state health departments. The state would seek assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The Ohio Department of Health has been strengthening its bioterrorism response capability for the past three years with a five-year, $1.1-million-per-year grant from the federal government.
That grant preceded this year’s terrorist attack. State officials in Ohio, as in other states, do not know how much they will receive in
federal aid for public health next year.
“We’re hearing lots of things, that they’re going to send more money, but there’s no confirmation of that,” said Barb Bradley, bureau chief for infectious disease control in the Ohio Department of Health.
In 1999, when the Ohio department’s spending totaled $400 million, two-thirds of the funding came from the federal government. The state distributes some federal funding to local health departments.
Of the federal bioterorrism aid that will flow to states next year, most is contained in a $20 billion package administered by
Congress. The $20 billion is part of a larger $40 billion emergency bill that Congress approved Sept. 14 to fight terrorism and
respond to the attacks that had occurred days before.
While the president has the authority to determine how to spend the first $20 billion, Congress reserved to itself the decisions on
how to dole out the second $20 billion.
Congress will spend its $20 billion on a variety of projects, including building up stockpiles of antibiotics and vaccines, helping
hospitals prepare for an attack, federal research and improved food inspections.
Of the $20 billion, $2.5 billion is being set aside to strengthen the ability of the federal, state and local governments to respond to
State and local health departments can expect to get $865 million of that.
The primary purpose of the aid is to defend against terrorism. It also will, however, help prepare the nation’s public health system
for other crises that may occur.
The attack has made people more aware of the importance of the public health system.
After Sept. 11, Regula said, Americans are “looking around and saying, ‘Who is looking out for us?’ ” The answer: “The public health
departments,” Regula said.
The more than $800 million that Congress will provide to state and local governments through the emergency bill accounts for most
of the bioterrorism aid, but not all of it.
In separate legislation, the House and Senate are earmarking another $243 million for bioterrorism. At least some of this is
expected to find its way to state and local governments.
Beyond that, the federal government spends more than $250 billion a year on health and human services, including entitlement
programs that benefit states. The House and Senate both increased spending on health programs above the levels suggested by