Originally published by The News-Press on February 20, 2023 by Amy Bennett Williams

The name is a bit different but the intent is the same in a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Naples U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds this week: help algal bloom-affected communities get federal help while advancing research on the human health effects of the outbreaks.

If passed, H.R. 1008, the Combat Harmful Algal Blooms Act, would give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a year to produce “a detailed study relating to the health effects of exposure to cyanotoxins in the air that result from algal blooms.”

Since 2019, the federal agency has made a series of halting attempts at the research, but faced delays from COVID and trouble enlisting participants. So far, no findings have been publicly released. A call seeking a progress report was not immediately returned.

The act also would include algal blooms to the list of crises like tornadoes and hurricanes covered by disaster declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. That would make it easier for governors to get federal help when their states are hit by damaging blooms.

Of course, if a governor won’t request the funds, it becomes a moot point, says longtime Southwest Florida water advocate and Calusa Waterkeeper emeritus John Cassani. “The irony is that the intent would be to help businesses,” he said.

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