HHS Diverts Cancer and Education Funding to Pay for Migrant Shelters for ChildrenWith costs skyrocketing due to the record number of young detainees, the Department of Health and Human Services pulls money from national health research programs as well as from Head Start for low-income preschoolers.
Last week, The New York Times reported that 12,800 migrant children were being held in immigration shelters. It is a record number, with record costs. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., notes “it costs about $750 per child per day, or three times the amount of a typical shelter.”
So how is the Department of Health and Human Services paying for it? According to a new report from Yahoo News, it is taking money away from other critical programs, including cancer and AIDS research, as well as the Head Start preschool program for low-income children.
Yahoo News reported Thursday that the “Department of Health and Human Services is diverting millions of dollars in funding from a number of programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, to pay for housing for the growing population of detained immigrant children.”
The information was revealed in a letter from HHS Secretary Alex Azar to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and obtained by Yahoo. Azar plans to reallocate $266 million from the current fiscal year to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which also is housed within HHS. About $80 million of that money will be taken from other ORR programs, which, as Yahoo points out, have already seen their funds cut. Otherwise, Yahoo notes:
The rest is being taken from other programs, including $16.7 million from Head Start, $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and $13.3 million from the National Cancer Institute. Money is also being diverted from programs dedicated to mental and maternal health, women’s shelters and substance abuse.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was not convinced by the HHS letter and told Yahoo the requests for reallocations left too many questions unanswered. Van Hollen said he was questioning “the reasons for the need for additional money and how much of it is because you have more UACs coming across the border and how much is due to the Trump administration’s family separation policy?”
Van Hollen wants multiple agencies, including HHS, to participate in a hearing on the effects of the reallocations on the programs being cut. He added, “The American public is entitled to facts behind the policies here.”
Azar defended his choices in the letter to Murray, saying his agency needs “an increased length of time needed to safely release unaccompanied alien children to sponsors.” He did not appear to offer justification for specifically cutting the disease research and other programs.
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