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Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces the lifting of the Zika transmission zone in Miami Beach on Dec. 9, 2016. Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces the lifting of the Zika transmission zone in Miami Beach on Dec. 9, 2016.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces the lifting of the Zika transmission zone in Miami Beach on Dec. 9, 2016.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 12, 2016

Rick Scott says federal government has shortchanged Florida on Zika money

Florida Gov. Rick Scott hopes that his ally headed to the White House, President-elect Donald Trump, will speed up funding for Florida to combat the Zika virus.

While announcing that state health officials had lifted the zone of active Zika transmission in one area of Miami-Dade County, Scott mentioned his ongoing feud with President Barack Obama’s administration about the pace and size of federal dollars flowing to Florida.

"It has been more than two months since over $1 billion in Zika funding was signed by President Obama, and the federal government has still only committed $7 million to help reimburse Florida’s costs of fighting this virus," Scott wrote in a Dec. 2 press statement. (A week later, Scott announced that the last Zika zone -- in South Beach -- had been lifted.)

We found that Scott isn’t telling the full story. Scott’s statement about only $7 million heading to Florida makes no mention of the millions of other federal dollars the state has had access to since the summer to combat Zika.

Federal Zika funding

Obama proposed $1.9 billion in Zika funding in February but that led to a partisan battle, and Congress didn’t reach an agreement until September. Obama signed a spending bill that included $1.1 billion to combat Zika later that month.

States like Florida were expected to get significant chunks of the money to pay for increased mosquito control, faster diagnostic tests and other expenses. (Florida had 1,236 Zika cases, the majority of which came from outside the continental United States, as of Dec. 7.) The bill also included money for federal research.

Florida applied for $15 million and received notice Oct. 28 that the funding had been approved through the federal epidemiology and laboratory capacity grant. However, the notice stated that for now $7.5 million was available to Florida and that the remainder was subject to the availability of funds.

Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said the state wasn’t certain if it came from the $1.1 billion program since it was part of an existing grant program.

"We have not been told what our distribution of funds as part of the $1.1 billion will be, nor have we been provided a timeline." she said.

Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, told PolitiFact that the money is in fact part of the legislation Obama signed.

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The federal government provided half of the request to Florida while continuing to evaluate the state’s application, Griffis said. None of Florida’s request has been rejected, he said.

The federal government expects to award most of the money for states by the end of December. Since Obama signed the legislation for the $1.1 billion, Florida has applied for about $92 million in grants.

Scott’s statement centered on the specific $1.1 billion pot signed by Obama. Left unsaid was what happened over the summer, when the federal government offered Florida a shot at millions more dollars for its Zika fight.

In total, the federal government had provided $16.5 million in Zika money to Florida by the date that Scott made his statement. That includes the $9 million that first came available this summer from a variety of grants and then the $7.5 million this fall (from the $1.1 billion legislation). On Dec. 12, Florida received notice that it will get $4.9 million more from the federal government to combat Zika.

Florida could also claim reimbursements -- up to $29 million -- from federal public health emergency funds but has only drawn down some of those dollars. Florida officials have been reluctant to tap that money because they argue they could need it to respond to other health care threats such as those stemming from hurricanes or terrorism.

In addition to the money, the CDC has provided personnel and materials to conduct tests, but Scott said he needs more prevention kits.

Steve Ellis, vice president for Taxpayers for Common Sense, said that the federal government has to balance states’ desires for speed with concerns about avoiding waste or fraud. The federal government needs to be able to account for every allocated dollar.

"Federal money flows slower than a lot of people realize whether it’s a disaster or this event," he said.

Our ruling

Scott said President Obama signed a bill for more than $1 billion in Zika funding more than two months ago, "and the federal government has still only committed $7 million," to help Florida.

Obama signed a bill that included $1.1 billion in Zika funding Sept. 29. About a month later, federal officials told Florida that it would get $7.5 million for now.

But Scott omits that the state previously had access to millions of additional dollars earmarked to combat Zika -- about $9 million, as of the date of Scott’s statement. Also, the state can access other public health dollars.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Gov. Rick Scott, Press release about Zika, Dec. 2, 2016

Florida Department of Health, Daily Zika update, Accessed Dec. 5, 2016

Centers for Disease Control, Press release, Oct. 21, 2016

CQ Roll Call, "Florida Governor, Obama Administration at Odds Over Zika Money," Nov. 1, 2016

Miami Herald, "How $1.1 billion will be spent on Zika," Sept. 29, 2016

Miami Herald Naked Politics, "Scott takes victory lap on $1.1B Zika funding but wants more federal help," Sept. 29, 2016

Miami Herald, "Federal Zika funding to arrive in next three months as researchers push for vaccine," Oct. 3, 2016

Miami Herald, "In fight against Zika, Florida yet to use all federal money available," Sept. 26, 2016

Miami Herald, "Gov. Rick Scott lifts last Zika zone in Miami Beach," Dec. 9, 2016

PolitiFact, Fact-checks about Zika, Accessed Dec. 6, 2016

Interview, Mara Gambineri, Florida Department of Health spokeswoman, Dec. 6-9, 2016

Interview, Kevin Griffis, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dec. 6-9, 2016

Interview, Steve Ellis, Taxpayers for Common Sense vice president, Dec. 9, 2016

Interview, Thomas Bognanno, CEO/President Community Health Charities of America, Dec. 9, 2016

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Rick Scott says federal government has shortchanged Florida on Zika money

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