WASHINGTON, DC – This week, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that an outbreak of the flu-like coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, that has already affected over 80,000 people worldwide is likely to spread within the United States. 

Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who is working with state officials to ensure Rhode Island is prepared and has the federal resources it needs to help effectively respond to such an event, emphasized the need for preparedness and a more coordinated response from the federal government to help states and communities.  Senator Reed noted that the Trump Administration’s public health budget cuts, elimination of the National Security Council’s entire global health security unit, and misleading statements has made America more vulnerable than it should be to a potential coronavirus outbreak in the United States. 

“Right now, the risk level in Rhode Island is low.  But this is an evolving and growing situation.  Tonight President Trump tried to claim that this is just the flu, and it is a lot more serious than that.  We have to be prepared and educate people about the best way to stay healthy and take proper precautions in the likely event the disease begins to spread.  It’s in our national interest to contain and eradicate this disease both here and abroad and we have to have an effective, coordinated strategy,” said Senator Reed.  “I urge President Trump to work with Congress to quickly make emergency funds available to confront and contain coronavirus.  His proposal to date is insufficient and attempts to take money from other important priorities is short-sighted and wrong.”

This week the Trump administration notified Congress that it would take $37 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which saves lives by helping seniors and low-income families with their utility bills in the cold winter and hot summer months.

The Trump Administration also wants to cut $535 million from federal efforts to combat the Ebola virus, despite the fact that the Republic of Congo is in the midst of an Ebola epidemic that could spread further without U.S. assistance.

“People’s lives are at stake and we need a sustained commitment, coordination, and resources to combat the spread of infectious diseases and bolster public health.  This is not the time for President Trump to try to go after programs he has long sought to eliminate.  He should put politics aside, boost his funding request, and do what is right to protect the American people,” said Senator Reed.

A senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Reed has called for $3.1 billion in immediate emergency supplemental coronavirus funding, and upwards of $8.5 billion in total public health funding to help respond to concerns over the coronavirus (which includes $3 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund; $2 billion set-aside for State and Local Reimbursement; $1.5 billion for the CDC; $1 billion for the USAID Emerging Health Threats—Emergency Reserve Fund; and $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health—Vaccine Development.)