With $1.1 billion to fight Zika tucked into a stopgap spending bill, Florida’s U.S. senators said Wednesday that a more aggressive approach was coming to the virus touching almost 1,000 people in their state.
The House is expected to approve the measure as early as Wednesday night and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
“The emergency spending approved today will help increase local mosquito-control efforts to contain the spread of the virus and allow federal researchers to continue their search for a vaccine,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat.
“The threat we face from Zika is a true public health emergency and we need our local, state and federal agencies working together to put this money to use as quickly as possible.”
President Obama requested $1.9 billion in Zika funding in February. But the Republican-led House and Senate have deadlocked for months over finalizing money to help states fight the virus.
Florida has had almost 800 travel-related cases of Zika, along with more than 100 cases contracted locally.
The $1.1 billion anti-Zika package is part of a larger measure that would finance the government through Dec. 9. According to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, $15 million is specifically targeted for states with local transmissions, with Florida being the only such state so far.
The spending plan also includes $60 million for territories like Puerto Rico, which has the highest number of infected American citizens.
“I’m glad these critical resources are now moving forward so we can help the thousands of Americans suffering from this virus, step up our mosquito eradication efforts, and develop a vaccine to eradicate Zika for good,” Rubio said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already dipped into the state treasury for $36.2 million for various Zika-fighting efforts. He also has approved spending another $25 million for research into a vaccine against the virus.
Scott has acknowledged being frustrated with the long standoff in Washington and has blasted Congress for months. He was cautious in his comments about the pending deal.
“Every day that Congress fails to act, more cases are diagnosed in our state,” Scott said.