Congress enacted major legislation after 9/11 to help local officials better prepare for health emergencies such as bioterrorism or infectious disease outbreaks. In 2003, HHS distributed more than $1.5 billion to bolster responses by local health officials.
But emergency preparedness funding for the nation's public health and healthcare systems has fallen victim to the overall climate of fiscal austerity in Washington, with the budget sequestration cuts taking a chunk out of both programs. Those cuts have been supported both by the Obama administration and congressional Republicans.
But that may change with the current Ebola scare. The cases in Texas, which have raised questions about whether federal, local and hospital officials were ready to treat and contain the virus, could heighten pressure to boost funding.