Should cities be reimbursed for Ebola costs?

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) Photo: Thinkstock

(CNN) — The federal government should pay back New York and other cities that have shelled out millions to deal with Ebola, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

In New York, which diagnosed its first Ebola case last month, the price tag has been steep, Schumer said.

The city has spent about $20 million so far to quarantine and treat Dr. Craig Spencer, trace his contacts and make sure the disease doesn’t spread, according to Schumer, a Democrat.

Spencer was released from Bellevue Hospital Center last week after weeks of treatment. Word that Spencer went for a jog, traveled the city’s vast subway system and went bowling before his diagnosis sparked fears that the number of Ebola cases could grow in the city, though authorities stressed that the risk of him spreading the virus was low.

“The world-class effort mounted by the city and Bellevue to fight Ebola was not cost-free — far from it,” Schumer told reporters Sunday.

Spencer’s treatment was “extremely expensive,” Schumer said, involving about 100 workers. City health officials also ramped up operations to keep track of people returning from Ebola hotspots in West Africa and those who had direct contact with Spencer, Schumer said.

“Simply put, local communities, local taxpayers should not foot the whole bill for handling this infectious disease that may have been physically present in New York City, but was truly a threat to the whole nation,” he said.

Last month, officials in Dallas County, Texas, told The Dallas Morning News they’d already spent more than $1 million responding to the Ebola crisis. County leaders there have also said they plan to request reimbursement, the newspaper reported.

The Obama administration said earlier this month that it wants Congress to foot the bill for more than $6 billion in “emergency funding” to fight Ebola. That includes $4.5 billion for immediate response and $1.5 billion for a contingency fund, an Office of Management and Budget official told CNN.

Schumer said Sunday that money should include a special “Ebola Contingency Fund” that would reimburse states and local governments for treatment and containment of Ebola. Obama’s existing appropriations request, Schumer’s office said, “does not include any plan to reimburse localities like New York City in such a substantial way.”

Last month, the World Bank estimated that the cost of Ebola could top $32 billion over the next two years if the deadly virus spreads to more countries in West Africa.

CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

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