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President declares West Nile emergency in New York counties
$5 million not enough, says Pataki
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton declared an emergency in areas of New York state affected by the West Nile virus -- including Westchester County, where he and First Lady Hillary Clinton bought a house last year.
Wednesday's declaration, which includes New York City and 44 counties, authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide up to $5 million to reimburse local governments for part of the cost of combating the mosquito-born virus since July 15.
New York Republican Gov. George Pataki said Clinton has "shortchanged New York taxpayers," calling the $5 million "insufficient."
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the president took the action after determining that money already authorized for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies was insufficient for local response activities.
Pataki: 'A drop in the bucket'
"This assistance is nothing more than a drop in the bucket," Pataki said in a statement. He called on the administration to reimburse the state fully for money it had spent to combat the virus, which he said would exceed $30 million by the end of 2000.
Pataki requested the presidential declaration on September 13 because of the mounting costs of controlling and eradicating the virus, such as spraying against mosquitoes.
Federal officials determined that the only way to immediately provide funds for a public health concern like West Nile virus was under the emergency declaration part of the Stafford Act, which limits assistance to $5 million.
Virus found in 7 states, District of Columbia
West Nile virus made its first appearance in the United States last year, killing seven people in New York City.
Blood-sucking mosquitoes spread the virus from infected birds to people. The elderly and children are the most vulnerable to the virus, which can cause brain diseases such as encephalitis and meningitis and, at its worst, lead to paralysis and death.
This year, the virus has been found in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C. So far, New York is the only state to ask for federal assistance.
Reuters contributed to this report.
New Jersey's first human case of West Nile is confirmed
The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Assistance And Emergency Relief Act
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