- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Department of Health and Human Services is sitting on more than a billion dollars appropriated by Congress for anti-pandemic efforts but unspent, according to a House member.

Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, said in a letter this week to new Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that she is “very concerned, however, by reports that the Department of Health and Human Services has approximately $1.3 billion in unspent funds for the implementation of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (NSPI). I am particularly concerned that this large unobligated balance remains after I wrote to and spoke with [then-HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt] back in 2007 about the importance of acting expeditiously” to stock up on existing anti-viral flu medications and develop new ones.

Mrs. Granger’s letter was sent Tuesday, the same day that the White House said President Obama would request $1.5 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of swine flu, which has killed more than 150 people in Mexico and one person in the U.S. and which the World Health Organization says is an imminent risk of becoming a global pandemic.

“Given that your Department has $1.3 billion in unobligated funds for pandemic preparedness, I am concerned that any additional funding Congress may provide through a supplemental appropriations bill or other means will remain unspent,” wrote Mrs. Granger, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

A Health and Human Services spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

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