Granholm Implores Congress To Restore Bio-terrorism Preparedness Funding; Bush Administration Proposes Diverting Funds Which Could Jeopardize State Programs

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

June 14, 2004

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm calls on Congress to block a Bush Administration plan to shift federal bio-terrorism preparedness money promised to states into three new federal programs.

“Many other Governors and I are urging the federal government to honor its commitment to the safety of Americans at home,” Granholm said. “Diverting funding that was specifically dedicated for public health and domestic security to start up new federal initiatives is shortsighted at best, and grossly irresponsible at worst.”

Furthermore, the President’s fiscal year 2005 budget reduces funding for bio-terrorism preparedness by cutting $105 million for upgrading state and local capacity – a whopping 11 percent cut compared to fiscal year 2004. The President also announced in May that if he is re-elected, his budget for fiscal year 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including homeland security and education.

On May 19, U.S. Department of Human Services (HHS) Director Secretary Tommy Thompson submitted a letter to House and Senate appropriators detailing his plan to redirect federal funds appropriated for state bio-terrorism preparedness efforts for FY 2004 for three new federal initiatives - Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI), U.S. Postal Service involvement, and the Bio-sense and Quarantine program. Under the May 19 HHS proposal, the federal government would reduce bio-terrorism grants to Michigan by more than $1 million.

“While these new initiatives might have some merit, they should not be funded through reductions to ongoing state bio-terrorism preparedness efforts,” Granholm said. “If new federal initiatives and priorities are identified, new federal dollars must be allocated to pay for them.” The President’s fiscal year 2005 budget does not contain funding for the new Cities Readiness Initiative, which is also clearly a large concern.

Granholm said the plan to divert funding of bio-terrorism preparedness will not only jeopardize important programs and partnerships with academic institutions, local health departments across the state, poison control centers, and other groups, but it will jeopardize dozens of public health professional jobs – specifically nurses and epidemiologists – that were created for Michigan’s continued efforts to combat bio-terrorism. Michigan also uses federal grant monies to provide physicians with bio-terrorism training.

“When the preparedness program was established, there was a promise of sustained federal commitment to strengthen state and local preparedness capacities and capabilities,” Granholm said. “In order to recruit and retain competent health care professionals and maintain Michigan’s security and economy, that commitment must be maintained.”

Bio-terrorism preparedness became a priority following September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax attacks that killed several U.S. Postal employees and others around the country. At that time, several experts noted that our public health system's ability to address bio-terrorism had deteriorated over the past 20 years and was lacking both capacity and funding.

Congress and HHS responded by providing states with $1.85 billion in grants for bio-terrorism preparedness for fiscal years 2002 and 2003 to bolster efforts to rebuild public health infrastructure, including laboratory capacity, information sharing and reporting, emergency response training and equipment, and hospital surge capacity improvements.

“I urge the Bush Administration to honor its federal commitment and make sure that appropriated funds for our hometown security and bio-terrorism preparedness are preserved to assist our states in building capability and capacity in the public health systems so we will be prepared to respond to and recover from bio-terrorist attacks,” Granholm said.