Renewing Federal Funding for Community Health Centers

Before any of us had heard of COVID-19, Health Centers were advocating for the long-term renewal of their federal grant funding, also known as the Community Health Center Fund. At the end of 2019, Congressional approval was delayed, and we were granted a short-term extension to give lawmakers time to consider and revise proposals. And then enters COVID-19 and the need for trillions of dollars in short-term funding for our country.

You may be asking yourself, what the Community Health Center Fund? It is a mandatory funding stream of $4 billion per year that accounts for 70% of the federal grant funding for health centers and is now set to expire on November 30, 2020.

While health centers have received limited aid from Congress toward COVID-19, it is a fraction of what is needed to address the pandemic and is not a substitute for another delayed re-authorization. While there is a definite need for short term solutions to our country’s current situation, we should not lose sight of the previously existing or upcoming long-term funding needs it has as well.  

An immediate long-term re-authorization of the Community Health Center Fund is needed to stabilize a critical system of care for vulnerable communities – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Community Health Centers are requesting a 5-year re-authorization of the Community Health Center Fund with related workforce programs to serve increasing numbers of unemployed, uninsured, and underinsured people.

Community Health Centers are efficient and save the health care system over $24 billion every year, reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room use. In addition, they generate $54.6 billion in total economic activity and bring 236,000 direct jobs to communities.

Health centers are vital partners who can conduct massive community testing during the COVID-19 recovery. When a vaccine is ready and available, Community Health Centers will be key in reaching vulnerable populations hard hit by the virus in both urban and rural areas and helping to get the American economy back to work and back on track. Long-term, stable federal investment supporting the health center system of care is essential to ensuring health centers’ meet operational needs, recruit and retain staff and expand needed services for patients.

Health centers depend on Congress to act NOW to provide stable, long-term re-authorization as part of the next stimulus package. With much uncertainty on the horizon, no one knows if Congress or the Administration will have the will or the funds for a re-authorization deal by November 30. The time to act is NOW!

MEHOP is fighting to keep you healthy, and we need help. Without additional funding from Congress, it will be harder for health centers like ours to keep the doors open during AND AFTER this crisis. Let’s stand up and stand together for Community Health Centers. Contact your member of congress and let them know you value your community health center! #ValueCHCs #SaveCHCs

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