Bernie and nearly 140 lawmakers urge congressional leaders to fund health centers during pandemic

"Nothing is more fundamental to our recovery than the strengthening of America’s public health safety net.”

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In a recent letter addressed to congressional leadership, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, along with over 135 legislators, urged them to provide at least $77.3 billion for community health centers (CHCs) in upcoming coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) stimulus packages.

Addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the letter began by thanking Congress’ continued support for our country’s community health centers (CHCs). The lawmakers wrote, “However, as this unprecedented public health pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our nation, substantially more resources are desperately needed to address the needs of our most vulnerable communities. As negotiations continue for any upcoming stimulus package, we urge you to take immediate action and provide $77.3 billion for community health centers as quickly as possible, including at least $7.6 billion in emergency supplemental funding.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate communities across America, most specifically people of color and low-income communities, it is imperative to our broader public health and safety goals that CHCs receive the funding they need to effectively meet the challenges before them.”

Serving almost 30 million low-income people across America, CHCs provide testing and medical care within the nation’s most vulnerable and hardest hit communities, with recently-published race and ethnicity data showing that COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have a disproportionate effect on Black and Latinx communities. Further, as the economic ramifications of this pandemic continue to grow, CHCs have become increasingly relied upon as millions of newly-unemployed Americans are left without adequate access to health care.

The legislators added, “Further, as the economic ramifications of this pandemic continue to grow, CHCs have become increasingly relied upon. Today, more than 33 million people have lost their jobs and with it employer-sponsored health coverage, leaving millions of people without adequate access to health care. By the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) own admission, CHCs are being asked to step up and provide medical care for this vulnerable population. CDC Director Redfield, for example, recently described federally qualified health centers as ‘an important component of the national response to the COVID-19 virus’ and highlighted the centers’ role in ‘assess[ing] whether a patient needs further [COVID-19] testing’ and providing ‘primary health care services…at a reduced cost or free of charge.’ It is unfair and unsustainable for CHCs to meet an increased demand all while operating with limited funding and resources. Nothing is more fundamental to our recovery than the strengthening of America’s public health safety net.”

The letter was signed by more than a dozen senators, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. It was also signed by over 100 members of Congress, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, Ro Khanna, and Ilhan Omar.

On Friday, Bernie took to Twitter and wrote, “@RepPressley, @SenWarren, and I call on Congress to act quickly to provide our country’s Community Health Centers with the $77 billion in funding they need. CHCs are vital and irreplaceable, now more than ever.”

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