- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The $320,000 that Connecticut is receiving from the federal government to prepare for a potential Zika outbreak represents only a fraction of what it ultimately needs to combat the virus, the state’s U.S. senators said Tuesday.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said Congress should pass legislation that authorizes President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in funding to combat Zika. Facing congressional opposition, the Obama administration recently shifted about $500 million from fighting Ebola to address Zika, enough to provide only small grants to the states.

“It simply doesn’t do the job,” Murphy said. “The administration, I can tell you, is begging Congress right now to get this done because they are deeply fearful of their inability to combat this virus with a relatively small amount of money they’ve passed down to the states.”

Blumenthal said the money earmarked for Connecticut is supposed to pay for emergency outbreak planning in the state.

“It’s really to help public health departments locally, in effect, prepare plans for an emergency outbreak without giving them the money to really meet that need if there is an emergency outbreak,” Blumenthal said. “They are, in effect, planning without the money to fulfill the plans.”

Blumenthal said the state’s grant is a “pittance” compared to what’s needed to eradicate the mosquitoes that transmit the virus, to educate the public and to provide resources to fund a vaccine to fight the virus, which causes severe birth defects. Two Connecticut companies, Protein Sciences in Meriden and CargoGen Corp. in Farmington, are working to develop Zika vaccines.

The issue of Zika funding has been caught up in partisan fights in Washington, D.C. House Republicans recently pushed through a bill that would provide $1.1 billion by cutting money from other government agencies. The legislation would also bar new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico and allow pesticide spraying that environmentalists argue would be harmful.

Senate Democrats have blocked the bill, and another vote is expected this week. The House and Senate have just eight legislative days before their summer break. Congress isn’t expected to return until September.

So far there have been 22 cases of Zika found in Connecticut patients who traveled to another country. No locally acquired cases have been reported.

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This story has been corrected to show the senators spoke Tuesday, not Monday.


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