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Marco Rubio pushes legislation to protect servicemen and women from Zika

in Statewide by

Sen. Marco Rubio is taking steps to make sure U.S. troops are protected from the Zika virus.

The Miami Republican introduced legislation Wednesday to provide troops with additional resources to protect against the spread of Zika. Among other things, the bill — dubbed the Servicemembers’ Zika Protection Act — would make funding available to send insect repellent to members of the armed forces and Department of Defense civilian personnel in areas affected by the Zika virus.

“With 100 members of our military and their families now infected with Zika, we need to take specific precautions to assist them and help our foreign partners who host Americans on military bases in regions affected by Zika,” said Rubio in a statement announcing the legislation. “I’m hopeful that Congress will ultimately arrive at an agreement this month to fund our nation’s response to Zika, and we must ensure those deploying on our behalf receive every protection we can provide.”

Rubio, who has backed proposals to allocate more than $1 billion to fight the spread of the mosquito-borne disease, also introduced legislation to make sure U.S. Small Business Association has the authority to make disaster loans to communities impacted by Zika-related travel advisories.

That measure — called the Small Business Relief from Disease Induced Economic Hardship Act — could help business owners in the Miami area.

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel advisories for the Wynwood neighborhood and Miami Beach after locally transmitted Zika was discovered in the area. The advisories urged pregnant women not to travel to the South Florida destinations, and said pregnant women living and traveling to the areas should take extra precautions to protect against the virus.

“As I have said time and time again, the Zika outbreak is not just a public health emergency; it is an economic one as well,” said Rubio in a statement. “Some businesses had to reduce their hours or shut their doors after the CDC’s advisories, and I want to make sure some short-term relief is available in case they need it.”

Rubio said the legislation would “reinforce the SBA’s legal authority to cover communities impacted by CDC travel advisories.”

The recent legislation comes just days after the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal to spend $1.1 billion to fight the spread of Zika. Senate Democrats blocked the bill, citing provisions like ones to defund Planned Parenthood.

There were 732 cases of Zika in Florida as of Wednesday. According to the Florida Department of Health, 56 of those cases are locally acquired and 80 involve pregnant women. The remaining cases are all travel related.

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