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Public Statements

Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BILIRAKIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 5997, the Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act, a bipartisan bill which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to make it clear that grant funds under the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative may be used to enhance medical preparedness and purchase medical countermeasures.

I introduced H.R. 5997 after a series of hearings on medical countermeasures in the Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. At these hearings, we received testimony from representatives of the emergency response community on the importance of stockpiling medical countermeasures in the event of a WMD attack. This includes pre-deployed medical kits for first responders and their families, similar to those provided to postal workers participating in the national U.S. Postal Medical Countermeasures Dispensing Pilot Program.

The grant guidance for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative currently permits this funding to be used to procure medical countermeasures and for other medical preparedness and medical surge capacity equipment and activities. However, this guidance is developed on an annual basis, and there is no guarantee that these uses will be authorized in the future.

To be clear, this bill does not create a new grant program or authorize new funding. It simply ensures that these activities will remain allowable uses under SHSGP and UASI.

As the WMD Commission noted in its report, Mr. Speaker, ``World at Risk,'' it is more likely than not that there will be a weapon of mass destruction used someplace on Earth by a terrorist group before the end of the year 2013, and it's more likely that this weapon will be biological, rather than nuclear.

The expenditures authorized and codified by the bill we are considering today can make a difference in the protection of the public, including emergency responders, in the event of such an attack, and there should be no doubt that grant funding may be used to support them now and in the future.

As the chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, I consistently find myself in awe of our first responders and the sacrifices that they make on behalf of our public. In the wake of events such as Hurricane Sandy, I am committed to ensuring Congress does all that it can to support those brave men and women, Mr. Speaker.

I am pleased that this legislation is supported by the Emergency Services Coalition on Medical Preparedness, which works to ensure that we protect the protectors.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BILIRAKIS. Mr. Ranking Member, we'll continue to work on getting that bill passed. I promise you. That's my bill, and we worked very hard. As you said, it was marked up in committee, and we'll continue to advocate on behalf, of course, of the MMRS grant program.

Mr. Speaker, I once again urge Members to support this very important bill that ensures medical preparedness activities remain an allowable use under Homeland Security Grant Programs.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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