Health Care

Miami-Dade mayor wants Gov. Scott to foot $6 million Zika bill

lriely@miamiherald.com

Miami-Dade has spent $6 million so far on Zika virus prevention, and the mayor wants Gov. Rick Scott to foot the bill.

In a letter addressed to “The Honorable Rick Scott,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez requested reimbursement for “aerial spraying, ground spraying, and outreach and education efforts.” Gimenez said $6 million would cover the costs, based on current estimates.

“I also urge you to consider an economic recovery package for our businesses in the Wynwood community that have been impacted,” he wrote.

The Florida pot for emergency Zika funding tops $26 million, but so far Miami-Dade, which has the most cases of any county in the state and has 25 locally transmitted cases, has received only around $300,000 from the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent Florida more than $9 million in Zika-specific funding as well as about $27 million in emergency preparedness funds that can be used for Zika response. In June, Scott allocated $26.2 million from the state’s general reserve fund for emergency Zika costs.

Florida has spent nearly $18 million of Scott’s $26.2 million, with $5 million going toward testing of pregnant women and another $5 million for contracted workers. It also has spent about $7 million of the federal funds.

Starting in May, the Florida Department of Health has sent about $2 million to affected counties in monthly installments. The largest chunk has gone to Miami-Dade. As of Friday, Miami-Dade had 120 travel-related Zika cases and 25 of the state’s 28 locally transmitted cases. (The other three local cases are in Broward and Palm Beach counties)

The county has received only about $316,000 from the state health department, with the next biggest payout going to Broward County with a little over $221,000.

Miami-Dade should receive another $740,000 in state funds paid in installments through December, said Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip. But that funding was determined before the county’s outbreak of local Zika cases.

In a budget town hall this week, Gimenez said the county expects to spend $8 million on mosquito fighting this year — nearly four times the county’s original $1.8 million budget. The county’s mosquito division staff alone has jumped from 12 employees to 90 with the addition of contract workers.

At the federal level, President Barack Obama in February requested that Congress approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding for Zika. The Senate approved a $1.1 billion funding bill in May and the House passed similar legislation in June, but the appropriations measure got tied up in politics and Congress recessed for seven weeks without acting on the funding package.

With the governor’s declaration of public health emergency after the first travel-related case of the virus, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said his quick response ensured all counties had “every tool they needed to fight Zika.”

“Governor Scott has also stayed in constant communication with Mayor Gimenez to ensure Miami-Dade County has all of the resources they need. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has been fulfilling requests for the county since June and DOH will continue to review and fulfill any necessary requests they need to continue fighting Zika,” Schenone wrote in a statement. “In addition, the DOH has coordinated mosquito control experts from around the state to provide guidance to Miami-Dade County on best practices for mosquito control. Governor Scott has authorized over $26 million in state funds to combat Zika, and has already allocated over $18 million to communities across the state to ensure the health and safety of our residents and visitors.”

She said the Department of Economic Opportunity is contacting local businesses to see what they need.

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc

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