WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Taylor brought her concern for AIDS victims to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, saying she is "outraged that I have to ask" the government to spend the money it promised to help them.
The actress, speaking to reporters after urging a Senate committee to fully finance the Ryan White Care Act, noted that actual spending has fallen far short of the nearly $1 billion per year authorized by the law, which was signed by President Bush in 1990.
"We got a lot of lip service and very little cold, hard cash," Taylor said. "I am outraged that I have to ask" the government to spend the authorized amount for the program, which was named in honor of a young victim of AIDS. "We need the money, and we will not be silent until that money is found.
"People still get sick," she added. "People die in droves."
The 1990 bill called for spending up to $882 million last year and $4.5 billion over five years. Each year's budget was to have included $275 million in disaster relief for cities hardest hit by AIDS, another $275 million in grants to states to improve care and support services for people with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, and $75 million for early intervention.
But the government spent only $220.5 million last year and $279.3 million this year, and Bush has proposed spending $306.3 million next year, according to figures that Robert Harmon, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, presented to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
Jeanne White, Ryan's mother, asked: "How many more mothers must lose their precious children before Congress keeps its word? My son did not make any empty promises. He kept his word. You should keep your word as well."
Harmon's testimony showed that $87.8 million was awarded in that category last year and $121.3 million this year. The Administration has requested $148.7 million for next year. Meanwhile, the number of qualifying cities rose from 16 last year to 18 this year and 24 next year.
"I look at this as a real emergency, and I'm speaking for many, many mayors who will be in the same position I'm in in the near future unless we get the President and the Congress to respond," said San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, who also spoke for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.