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Zika Funds Not Going Anywhere Fast Until Next Year, HHS Says

Hundreds of millions of dollars approved by Congress last month to fight Zika won’t go anywhere until the beginning of next year — almost a full year after it was first requested, federal officials said Tuesday.

That’s because it’s entered the slow, bureaucratic world of the federal funding process. Cities, states and counties have to bid on the money, and federal agencies then decide who to give it to.

Field Surveillance Coordinator Jeremy Vela uses tweezers to sort mosquitoes that will be tested in the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services virology lab on July 8. Jennifer Weiss / NBC News

In the meantime, Florida reported three more home-grown cases of Zika Tuesday and said another batch of infected mosquitoes had been found in Miami Beach — a finding that suggests infected people are still actively passing the virus to the insects.

Florida has been demanding quicker help from the federal government in controlling mosquitoes and getting people tested for the virus.

But Congress did not award the full $1.9 billion the Obama administration had been asking for, and sometimes allocated it in specific ways, said Caitlyn Miller, director of discretionary programs at the Health and Human Services Department.

“We had to make tradeoffs,” Miller told reporters in a telephone briefing.

HHS took a first step towards getting the money going, at any rate, announcing that the process was open.

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