Press Release

California to Lose over 9 Percent of its Public Health Preparedness Funding as Country Faces Historic Zika Outbreak

May 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 23, 2016                

Coalition Calls on Congress to Disburse Emergency Funds Immediately

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As California faces deep public health funding cuts in the midst of responding to the Zika virus outbreak, the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is calling on Congress to disburse sufficient emergency funding designed to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus. The Coalition membership consists of the 28 of the largest, most urban public health departments in the United States, including the California cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.  Because the U.S. Congress has yet to pass supplemental funding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that California will lose nearly $4 million, or approximately 9.4 percent of their Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding.  The state of California has at least 30 confirmed cases of Zika and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has shown that most of the state is at an elevated risk due to its high number of arrivals from countries under the CDC Zika travel advisory.

The World Health Organization says there is now scientific consensus that the Zika virus is connected with microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy. 

“Cities and states are racing against the clock to prepare for, and respond to, the Zika virus, and these cuts will directly impact the response on the ground to not only Zika but also meningitis, mumps, and measles outbreaks, not to mention foodborne illness events, ” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “It’s time for Congress to get real about the potential cost of their inaction and give those fighting public health emergencies the resources they need to maintain their activities and surge their response efforts as Zika arrives.”

“Our health department is working hard to protect the people and families of San Francisco by addressing the Zika outbreak with the highest levels of expertise and urgency,” said Tomás Aragón, MD, Health Officer, San Francisco Department of Health. “To respond with a plan that matches the seriousness of this outbreak, we need extra resources, but right now, our funding is shrinking instead of growing. Without support from Congress, our capacity to act quickly and effectively on Zika, while addressing the other threats we face, will be diminished.”

Our health department has the talent and know-how to prepare for this outbreak, but we need additional resources to match the scale of this threat,” said Sara Cody, MD, Health Officer and Public Health Director, Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “The Zika virus can have devastating effects on newborns, and we owe it to the families we serve to deliver an appropriate response. Congress needs to ensure public health departments have what they need to protect residents.”

PHEP funding is a critical source of funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments. Since 2002, the PHEP cooperative agreement has provided nearly $9 billion to public health departments across the nation to upgrade and maintain their ability to effectively respond to a range of public health threats, including infectious diseases, like Zika. However, this most recent cut means states are receiving about a third less than a decade ago.

Many of the Coalition’s local health departments are engaged in educating the public and health care providers about Zika, conducting prevention activities through mosquito eradication, and screening travelers from countries where the outbreak has surfaced. Emerging infectious disease threats like Zika require ongoing vigilance, but the particular risks from this virus require immediate, additional investments.

The Obama Administration diverted funds from the Ebola virus response to address the Zika outbreak. However, this amount only represents a small fraction of the emergency funding the White House requested three months ago.  Moreover, many are concerned that these funds will never reach state or local health departments. With this funding, state and local health departments would be able to immediately increase their readiness and response capacity, particularly in areas with ongoing Zika transmission; enhance laboratory, epidemiology and surveillance capacity in at-risk areas to reduce the opportunities for Zika transmission; and stand up their surge capacity through rapid response teams.

CONTACT: Max Mays or 913-233-6830 


About the Big Cities Health Coalition

The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans. For more information, visit