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VERIFY: What does a federal public health emergency declaration do?

There are reports that the Biden administration may declare a public health emergency for Monkeypox in the U.S.

WASHINGTON — San Francisco, New York City and New York state have issued emergency declarations in response to Monkeypox, as they try to contain local outbreaks.

And there are reports that the Biden administration may issue what’s called a public health emergency declaration at the federal level.

So what would that do?


What does a federal public health emergency declaration do?



A Public Health Emergency Declaration is made by the secretary of Health and Human Services—in this case, Xavier Becerra.

“It would allow HHS to instantaneously do some things that it can't presently do quickly," Hodge said. 

It enables Bacerra to hire people, make grants, enter contracts, waive certain requirements and access additional funds, for example.

“Usually during emergency declarations, like with opioids or things we've seen in the past, there actually would be a free standing fund ready to be used for devoting to these purposes," Hodge said. "We've been working to refill that fund post-COVID, and to my knowledge, to date, it's not yet been refilled."

He continued, "In fact, Congress has been reticent to do it. Now, Monkeypox may change its mind very quickly. But the sheer fact is, the funds that normally would be there, to the tune of millions of dollars, simply may not be at this point in time.”

RELATED: No, the monkeypox outbreak has not been declared a pandemic

It can also allow states and local jurisdictions to purchase general supplies at a reduced cost.

"Those things can help them stand up clinics to deliver vaccinations for Monkeypox or to do testing," McGinty said. 

She also said a public health emergency declaration carries symbolic value.

"The act of making an emergency declaration calls attention to a problem and says this is of significance that we as a country need to be paying attention to this," McGinty said.

Hodge said he expects local jurisdictions to issue their own emergency declarations should Secretary Becerra issue a federal one.

"If you see HHS drop that public health emergency declaration on the nation soon, I think you will see a cascading series of jurisdictions—state and local— that do the same, and that will change the legal landscape as well," Hodge said.

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, Congress is entitled to an annual pay increase, but hasn't taken one since 2009

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