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Politics slows flow of US virus funds to local public health

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Volunteers work at a medical station on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, near the location where George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis. Dr. Jackie Kawiecki organized the effort to help to people at the site, an area that at times has drawn hundreds or thousands of people per day. She said the city did not do enough free, easy-to-access COVID-19 testing in its neighborhoods this summer. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)

Congress has allocated trillions of dollars to ease the coronavirus crisis.

A joint Kaiser Health News and AP investigation finds that many communities with big outbreaks have spent little of that federal money on local public health departments for work such as testing and contact tracing. Others, like Minnesota, were slow to do so.

So little money has flowed to some local health departments for many reasons: Bureaucracy has bogged things down, politics have crept into the process, and understaffed departments have struggled to take time away from critical needs to navigate the red tape required to justify asking for extra dollars.

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