Biden’s Office of Environmental Justice is open. Can he get the money he needs? – POLITICS
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— The Biden administration has launched a flagship office of environmental justice, but Congress has been slow to fund the structure of which it is a part.
— Compensation programs for injuries caused by vaccines and treatment of the pandemic are overwhelmed, raising questions about how and when someone will be paid.
— A $10 billion bipartisan Covid aid package is stuck in neutral, no forward momentum in the near future.
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HHS LAUNCHES ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE DESK – The Department of Health and Human Services launched an environmental justice effort Monday, housed in its still unfunded Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, Sarah reports.
The Office of Environmental Justice tackle long-standing issues such as discriminatory investments in public health, pollution, below-average water in disadvantaged communities, and other disparities that hit lower-income groups hardest as that climate change is getting worse.
The Biden administration created a climate change office last September, requesting initial funding of $3 million. Congress removed the funds from the fiscal year 2022 budget and made the request again in its 2023 budget proposal.
Some Republicans in Congress are questioning federal health spending on climate change, arguing that other health crises, like opioid overdose deaths and child nutrition, are more pressing.
For now, the new initiative, like its parent office, is working with HHS staff on details from other parts of the agency. Acting Director Sharunda Buchanan hails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she worked for more than three decades, most recently leading the agency’s Office of Priority Projects, Innovation and Environmental Justice.
DROWNING IN INJURY CLAIMS – A pair of federal programs compensating people who suffer injuries from vaccines and pandemic treatments are now facing so many claims that thousands of people may not receive payment anytime soon, POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner reports.
The first program, for standard vaccines, such as measles and polio, has too few staff to handle the number of reported injuries, and thousands of patients wait years for their cases to be heard..
A second program designed for vaccines and other treatments created or used during pandemics has grown unsustainably. Between 2010 and 2020, the countermeasure compensation program received 500 complaints. In the two years since Covid-19 emerged, he has received over 8,000 complaints.
More than 5,000 of them are directly linked to Covid-19 vaccines, with injuries ranging from a painful shoulder to death, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Despite bipartisan calls for change, Congress has failed to act, frustrating those who say the vaccine injury compensation program, which covers nearly three times as many vaccines today as it used to when it was created three decades ago, is outdated.
So far, the pandemic fund has not paid any claims.
COVID HELPALWAYS ON THE BACK – The bipartisan Senate agreement on $10 billion in Covid-19 aid will have to be renegotiated, POLITICO’s Jordain Carney reports.
Why? Some funds set aside to pay for the deal when it was announced in early April have been spent after it was blocked by a GOP push to tie it to continued pandemic-related border restrictions.
And now? A Democratic aide familiar with the state of affairs said Senate Democrats would not be the ones to figure out how to pay the package a third time after being blocked by House Democrats and Senate Republicans. “It’s at [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell now,” the aide said.
Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer said last week that he was waiting for the House to come up with a plan. But the House is in the midst of a two-week hiatus with a gun reform debate expected to be front and center when they return on June 7.
POLITICO EXCLUSIVE: NURSING HOME WORKERS LAUNCH NATIONAL CAMPAIGN — Nursing home workers and members of the Service Employees International Union are holding a national day of action on June 8 to demand better wages, benefits and workplace protections in more than a dozen states.
Background: The pandemic has laid bare a crisis in the country’s nursing homes, an industry facing growing demand as the country ages. But workers are leaving these jobs due to low wages and overwork.
“The status quo in our nursing homes is not working – not for workers, not for residents, not for families. As the nation seeks to overcome Covid-19, care home workers and residents face a system on the brink of collapse,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement.
Nurses will take measurements in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.
NY SENATE TO VOTE ON SECURING ACCESS TO ABORTION — The New York State Senate is preparing to vote on a series of bills to strengthen protections for abortion providers and patients who travel to the state for procedures if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, POLITICO’s Shannon Young reports.
The six-project package includes a measure, S9077/A10372which would prevent New York courts from issuing subpoenas in out-of-state abortion proceedings, prohibit the extradition of abortion providers unless they are suspected of having fled the requesting state and provides legal protections to New York abortion providers.
It also contains measures to protect the rights of people seeking abortion or gender-affirming care in New York City, S9039/A10094and prohibit disciplinary action against health care practitioners for providing lawful reproductive health services to patients who reside in states where abortion is illegal, S9079/A9687.
Senators will also vote on legislation prohibiting medical malpractice insurance companies from taking adverse action against a reproductive health care provider who provides lawful reproductive health care, A9718/S9080increase confidentiality for abortion providers and patients, S9384/A9818and study the effects of limited-service pregnancy centers, S470/A5499.
A PERFECT, DEADLY STORM – The head of the United Nations World Food Program issued a stark warning on Monday that “world hunger is reaching terrifying levels”, driven by the pandemic, conflict, climate change and soaring food prices, POLITICO’s National Security Daily reports.
At the start of the year, millions of Afghans were already at risk of starvation after the Taliban took power. The scale of the global hunger crisis has worsened after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created wheat and grain shortages that drove up food prices, affecting many millions of others in Africa and the Middle East.
“I simply cannot comprehend the magnitude of human suffering,” a State Department official told POLITICO.
OH, AND BY THE WAY — Monkeypox circulated in Europe for weeks before being detected by public health officials, reports Helen Collis of POLITICO Europe.
The World Health Organization’s European office said the outbreak began at least in mid-April before the UK became the first country outside the virus-endemic region to report a case of monkeypox on May 7.
So far, the UK alone has reported 183 cases. To put that into perspective: only nine cases have been reported in Europe in the last five years in total.
The number of one-year-olds being breastfed fell from 34% in 2020 to 14% this year after Covid-19 hospital restrictions led to new mums being discharged early before their milk arrived and babies babies have learned to latch on correctly, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Harlan Levine of City of Hope written in Real Clear Policy that without removing barriers to treatment access, Biden’s Cancer Moonshot goals cannot be achieved.
Why is the American Medical Association fighting a bill requiring doctors to be trained in how to treat opioid use disorders? Reporting by Nicholas Florko of STAT News.