WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will ask Congress for about $6.2 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa and reduce risks for U.S. citizens.
The funding will include about $4.5 billion for immediate actions and $1.5 billion in a contingency fund to assure access to resources as needed, according to a statement Wednesday from the Office of Management and Budget.
The money will "strengthen our domestic public health systems, contain and mitigate the outbreak in West Africa, speed efforts to obtain and test vaccines and therapeutics, and further reduce risks to Americans by helping vulnerable countries" contain the virus, according to the statement.
The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, the main aid group fighting the deadly disease, say the current global Ebola response has been insufficient. More health workers and supplies are urgently needed to prevent the disease from spiraling out of control, the groups have said.
The request announced Wednesday seeks $2.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services for domestic public health services, infection control, labs, tracking contacts and related needs. Another $2.1 billion is for the State Department and its Agency for International Development, $112 million for the Pentagon and $1.5 billion in a contingency fund.
As of Oct. 24, the U.S. has obligated more than $400 million to fight Ebola, the budget office said.
"Today's administration request for additional funding will be considered thoroughly over the next month, in the context of negotiations on annual appropriations legislation to fund the entire federal government by Dec. 11," Jennifer Hing, spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, said in an email.
By comparison, Obama requested $30.4 billion to fight the HIV virus in his fiscal 2015 budget, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. There are 35 million people world-wide infected with HIV, according to the WHO.
The Ebola outbreak has infected 13,567 people and killed about 5,000, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. is sending as many as 4,000 military personnel to the region to build treatment centers and train health-care workers.
A stopgap spending bill approved in September contained $88 million sought by the White House to fight Ebola. Of this total, $58 million was for research and development of Ebola vaccines and $30 million by the Centers for Disease Control's efforts in Africa.
In October, the U.S. set aside $750 million to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, enough for six months of the Pentagon's humanitarian operation, including troop deployments. Those funds were from the Pentagon budget.
For the new funding request, the "emergency" designation would mean the additional funding wouldn't be counted against budget caps.
Anthony Banbury, the head of the UN's Ebola mission, UNMEER, said that while reporting of new cases has slowed in the areas that were hardest hit there's a rise in regions that weren't a problem before.
"Ebola is a real crisis still," he said in an interview today in Ghana's capital, Accra. "We need to accelerate the response, and we need to cover a broad geographic area."
With assistance from Erik Wasson and Roger Runningen in Washington and Pauline Bax in Accra.