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White House Power Play

White House Power Play

While President Bush has called on Congress to renew in 2005 the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act'which must be reapproved by lawmakers every five years'he has also proposed a shift in control of the funds, raising concerns for some officials at AIDS organizations.

Bush called for the White House to have more power over how Ryan White funds are spent, saying the $2 billion program 'takes too little account of the most urgent needs.' Speaking at a Philadelphia Baptist church while on the campaign trail, Bush said more money should be spent on medical care and less on social services, and he called for more Ryan White funds to go to religious and faith-based groups.

Bush also said he and Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson want to implement a stronger assessment method to determine whether organizations receiving Ryan White funds are making good use of the federal money, but he did not explain exactly how the Administration would gauge program effectiveness.

AIDS activists were alarmed by some of the president's proposals, saying in particular that control of Ryan White funds should remain with the local communities, which best know how the money should be allocated.

'A major focus of the last reauthorization of Ryan White four years ago was on firming up the ability of local planning councils to make sure the dollars were spent in the most effective way in each jurisdiction,' says AIDS Project Los Angeles executive director Craig E. Thompson. 'If that starts being dictated in Washington, all effectiveness in building local health care infrastructures and expertise on the needs in local communities will be lost.'

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