Ponce sues U.S. agencies over AIDS funds

PonceDownload the opinion: Municipio Autónomo de Ponce et al v. U.S. Office of Management and Budget et al

The municipality of Ponce and other plaintiffs¹ sued the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), among other defendants,² for the eligibility criteria to receive emergency assistance to localities that are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic under Ryan White Legislation.³ The plaintiffs request a declaration that the current boundaries are unlawful, and the disbursement of the funds for the fiscal year 2014.

The main controversy is centered on the delineation of the Ponce metropolitan area boundaries for purposes of their eligibility to continue receiving funds for the fight against the AIDS epidemic. The boundary lines, in respect to the number of AIDS cases in the area, is the main criteria used for granting funds under Ryan White Legislation. Ponce contends the boundaries were drawn in an arbitrary and capricious manner by the agency.

The plaintiffs allege that the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) used the wrong metropolitan statistical area, delineated by the OMB. Using Ponce’s current metropolitan statistical area, HHS and HRSA concluded Ponce does not qualify with the eligibility criteria to receive emergency assistance under Ryan White Legislation.

In the Order and Judgment from August 12, 2014, the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico determined the OMB unlawfully drew the delineated area. The court reasoned that Puerto Rico tends to be subject to arbitrary decisions by Congress and federal agencies due to its physical remoteness from the mainland and its lack of representation as a territory.

As for the funds for the fiscal year 2014, the plaintiff’s request was denied. The court determined it is barred by the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution of the U.S. to grant the funds already appropriated and exhausted by Congress.

 

¹ On the Plaintiff’s side (apart from the municipality of Ponce): Centro Deambulantes Cristo Pobre, Inc., Lucha Contra el SIDA, Inc., Iniciativa Comunitaria, Inc., Itcia Hernández-Laboy, Jorge Ortiz-Torres, José Alvarez-Medina, and Hogar Crea Posada La Esperanza.

² Defendant’s side (apart from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget): Brian Deese, (Acting Director of OMB); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burnwell (Secretary of HHS), U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, and Mary Wakefield (Administrator of HRSA).

³ 42 USC § 300ff

 

Summary: Cristian González

 

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