Boccieri Urges State To Release Federal Zika Funding Directly To Local Communities
State officials signal Administration plans to keep $1 million award

State Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) today urged the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to distribute the $1 million in Zika funding received from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directly to local communities. With the funding was awarded this week, Boccieri remains concerned about information from local boards of health indicating the Department intends to keep these resources for state-led efforts instead of distributing it to local communities.

“I’m glad to see Ohio getting some support to combat this virus, but this money has to get to the local communities,” Boccieri said. “The state already maintains disaster readiness funds for statewide efforts, but local health departments are the first responders here and throughout Ohio. Communities need this funding to build mosquito control plans and implement active aerial sprays locally. For the state to keep this money is to defy the intent of CDC’s grant, which was meant to bolster not only states, but more importantly, local communities’ ability to prepare for, prevent and respond to Zika.”

The award comes as two Mahoning County residents have tested positive for the Zika virus. Statewide, Ohio has 28 confirmed cases, though none of them have been attributed to locally acquired bites.

Ohio is no stranger to mosquito-borne diseases. Last year, it had 34 cases of West Nile Virus, according to ODH, one of which was in Mahoning County.

Boccieri noted that the state should prioritize higher risk areas in its allocation of funding to combat the Zika virus.

“I would like to see this money directed toward communities that have been tracked by the CDC as posing a health risk, those that have been determined to be stronger breeding grounds for mosquito-borne diseases,” the Poland lawmaker said.

The $1 million in federal funding comes after Boccieri asked Gov. Kasich last Friday to set aside $50 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund – which currently holds over $2 billion – to create a Disaster Preparedness Contingency Fund for local Zika preparedness and prevention efforts. Florida Governor Rick Scott recently announced he will finance an increase in aerial sprays after his state discovered incidents of Zika transmission through local mosquitoes.

In the wake of congressional inaction on Zika appropriations due to partisan gridlock, President Obama’s administration has redirected $374 million from other health initiatives, including Ebola, to Zika efforts. However, both the National Institute of Health’s funding for vaccine trials and the CDC’s funding for control efforts are set to be exhausted in just a few months.

Rep. Boccieri is a pilot and Squadron Commander for the 757th Airlift Squadron, the Department of Defense’s only large area aerial spray squadron. The unit has conducted aerial spray missions combating West Nile virus and Dengue fever.

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