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Budget ‘Super Line’ Considered For Coronavirus, Hepatitis A

The Florida House
Governor's Press Office
To help fund efforts to abate the spread of the coronavirus and hepatitis A, a top health-care budget writer said the Legislature may consider a "super line" in the Department of Health's budget.

To help fund efforts to abate the spread of the coronavirus and hepatitis A, a top health-care budget writer said the Legislature may consider a “super line” in the Department of Health’s budget for the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The “super line” would give discretion to department Secretary Scott Rivkees in spending money on public-health emergencies. Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, told The News Service of Florida that he met Monday with his House counterpart, Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, to discuss the idea.

“We are thinking about creating a super line that gives flexibility,” Bean said. “It would give the department the resources to pivot and direct whatever comes our way.”

Rivkees, who in addition to serving as department secretary is the state’s surgeon general, has in seven months declared two public-health emergencies.

On Aug. 1, after a surge in the number of hepatitis A cases across the state, Rivkees declared a public-health emergency.

Hepatitis A, which can cause liver damage, can be spread through sexual contact and through fecal matter.

Rivkees told lawmakers in September that he had used $3 million from county health departments to hire additional workers as part of efforts to halt the spread of hepatitis A.

Ultimately, Florida had 3,396 cases of hepatitis A in 2019. Rivkees on Sunday declared a public-health emergency for the coronavirus, a contagious disease known as COVID-19.

Florida had three confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Test results were pending in another 16 cases, while the state had 24 negative test results.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters Tuesday that lawmakers could appropriate an additional $10 million to $20 million in public-health dollars in the 2020-2021 budget, which lawmakers currently are negotiating.