April 09, 2020

KENNEDY LEADS MASS DELEGATION CALLING FOR $70 BILLION FOR COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS

Raises concerns about underfunded health centers furloughing staff in Massachusetts

Newton, MA – In an urgent appeal to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressman Joe Kennedy III led the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in calling for a minimum of nearly $70 billion in additional funding for community health centers (CHCs) over the next five years.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, CHCs in Massachusetts have begun to furlough staff members in order to continue operations and provide care to the vulnerable patients they serve.

In early March, when Massachusetts only had dozens of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Kennedy convened a roundtable discussion at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and called on Congressional leadership to provide immediate, robust funding for community health centers. In the weeks since, he has been an outspoken supporter of CHCs in each and every emergency response package.

“Community health centers aren’t just on the frontlines of our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are keeping our overwhelmed health care system afloat. But today, decades of inadequate federal funding are forcing them to furlough staff and providers who are desperately needed to guide our country out of this crisis. As it becomes increasingly clear that communities of color are bearing the brunt of COVID-19, now is not the time to handcuff our community health centers with uncertainty and underfunding.”

Kennedy’s letter was signed by the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation. The full letter can be found below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell,

Thank you for your continued support for Community Health Centers (CHCs) as you have put the COVID-19 response packages together. We write today to urge you to include robust funding for CHCs in the next COVID-19 package.

Even with the funding provided to CHCs in the last COVID-19 response and relief packages, CHCs are already starting to feel the effects of tightening funds. In response to an even more limited supply of cash, CHCs are reducing their workforce during a time when it is most needed. In Massachusetts, 52 CHCs are beginning to furlough staff and there is a fear this will only continue throughout the pandemic.[1] This is in response to a significant drop in revenue due to postponement of procedures unrelated to COVID-19. As this crisis continues, this decline in revenue will only persist. CHCs across the country continue to be at the forefront of this pandemic. To keep these centers solvent, there is an urgent need for an immediate infusion of emergency funding as well as continued support for their operational needs.

CHCs are the first line of defense and a critical piece of our health care system. In order for them to effectively and appropriately respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as of April 3, 2020, they expressed a need for a minimum of $7.6 billion. It is essential that this funding can be used to cover losses attributable to COVID-19. This would enable them to reemploy all staff in an effort to expand services and outreach and to respond to COVID-19 for the next six months. As this pandemic has persisted, the funding gaps for CHCs have shifted. Therefore, we urge you to work with CHCs on their current cost projection and include the complete funding needs they have identified.

Not only do CHCs need an infusion of cash, but they are also faced with an uncertain future. While the CARES Act did extend funding for CHCs through November 30, 2020 and did enable them to access additional funding through grant programs, these short term solutions do not go far enough. In order to respond to COVID-19 while providing the highest quality care to all its patients, CHCs need to have an immediate guaranteed extension for at least five years, which includes a minimum of $69.7 billion for CHCs to expand their presence and to provide more services to more patients. Now more than ever, it is essential that they have all the necessary funds and equipment to ensure they are able to provide care to all those who need it. Now is not the time for CHCs to worry about keeping their doors open. They are critical to our health care system, and in an effort to curb the epidemic and successfully treat everyone who has COVID-19, CHCs are a central part. 

Without community health services, there is no way the United States will be able to effectively respond to this global crisis.

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For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2020

Contact:
Dan Black (202) 225-5931