The Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget cuts public health funds both domestically and internationally. But public health advocates say these programs need more money, not less — especially as the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to spread.
The proposed cuts include a nearly 65 million dollar cut to the World Health Organization and a 34% overall cut to global health programs.
When asked about the cuts, a State Department spokesperson told Newsy in part: “The U.S. is a proud leader in global health assistance, but we do look to other donors to contribute more.”
Domestically, the proposed budget cuts nearly 130 million dollars in public funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, including $25 million from preparedness and response, $18 million from hospital preparedness, and over $85 million in cuts to an emerging infectious diseases program.
The news comes as health experts tell lawmakers what the U.S. needs to protect itself from global pandemics.
"Slowing down spread is important because if we have a lot of cases all at once, we simply don't have the surge capacity to manage that in our health care environment or in any of the related services that would be necessary," Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, Former Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs.
"We need to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, but we also must continue to prepare for other public health threats, including efforts to develop needed medical countermeasures," said Nikki Clowers, Health Care Team Managing Director for U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Amanda Jezek with the Infectious Diseases Society of America told Newsy disease prevention funds haven't kept up with needs in the U.S. or abroad. Money to keep up research has also been lacking.
"Those needs are really vast, not only to research emerging infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus, but our ongoing needs in areas like antimicrobial resistance, TB, influenza, HIV," Jezek told Newsy.
Resource crunch can trickle down to state and local health departments too. Many rely on public health emergency preparedness grants from the CDC, Jezek says. The grant program has seen funding cuts since 2003, with no change the past two years.
Meanwhile, the CDC is tackling coronavirus with $105 million from an infectious disease rapid response fund. The CDC says 800 people are dedicated to response-that includes some 200 dispatched to airports, quarantine sites and states to investigate confirmed cases.
Alex Azar, the Director of Health and Human Services, has told Congress HHS could move $136 million from the National Institutes of Health and the Administration for Children and Families to fund additional CDC needs for coronavirus. At this point though, it’s not certain.
"It's really very premature to talk about needs for additional money. We won't let resources be any kind of barrier to the response activities here. But let's not put the cart before the horse," Azar said.