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Many voters would like to see action against the Zika virus. They'll be watching what Congress does once it returns from a long summer recess. That's according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here's NPR's Alison Kodjak.
ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: The poll shows that three quarters of people say new funding to deal with the Zika outbreak should be an important or top priority for Congress. Mollyann Brodie is with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
MOLLYANN BRODIE: People generally do value spending money when there is sort of a public health emergency.
KODJAK: And that's because they're worried about the disease. Half of the people in the poll said they'd be uncomfortable traveling to Florida, where Zika has flared up. And 77 percent say pregnant women are not safe in those areas.
BRODIE: It is something that the local officials have to take really seriously because in many of those areas, the tourism industry is a big part of those communities.
KODJAK: President Obama asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika back in February. So far, Congress hasn't allocated anything. The administration has been shifting money from other parts of the budget to address the Zika threat. Some was for Ebola, and some was for states to prepare for emergencies. Mark Harkins is a senior fellow at Georgetown's Government Affairs Institute.
MARK HARKINS: As part of the appropriations bills themselves, there's always a provision that says you may transfer money or reprogram money based on certain levels.
KODJAK: But, he says, there's an even bigger money-shifting loophole.
HARKINS: They also put in a little out that says, you can move money at any point, at any amount, as long as you give us 15 days' notice.
KODJAK: And now some Republican lawmakers, rather than add to the budget, seem to want the administration to use that loophole. Senator Chuck Grassley, along with some colleagues, sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services pointing to $20 billion sitting in its account and the State Department's, that could be used for Zika. But Harkins says much of that money is meant for other programs, like fighting AIDS in Africa and just hasn't been spent yet.
HARKINS: He doesn't care if that money is supposed to be used for multiple different things. He's just saying, since you think some money should come out of that account, take any money that's still left in that account.
KODJAK: But the administration says there won't be any money left for Zika by the end of this month. Meantime, state health officials are scrambling. Frank Welch, the head of preparedness at Louisiana's Health Department, says his federal grant to prepare for all kinds of health emergencies was cut and replaced with money that can only be used for Zika.
FRANK WELCH: None of those other threats or emergencies that are very real possibilities have gone away, and we took about a $700,000 cut.
KODJAK: So federal and state health officials are likely to keep playing accounting games if Congress fails to approve a new budget to deal with the virus. Alison Kodjak, NPR News, Washington.
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