BURLINGTON, Sept. 30 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Thursday that Vermont’s 11 federally qualified health centers will receive over $6.9 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan, which became law in March, to support major health care construction and renovation projects, including COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination infrastructure projects. These awards are particularly important because while federal funding for health center construction and renovation is typically extremely limited, it is critically necessary to ensuring community health center facilities can keep pace with the needs of patients and demand for services. Earlier this year, the American Rescue Plan provided $33.7 million in general emergency funds to Vermont’s community health centers, which was the largest single health center investment in the state’s history.
Sanders, Chairman of both the Budget Committee and the HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security, led the fight to increase funding for health centers in the American Rescue Plan. He said, “I am proud that, here in Vermont, we have the highest per-capita use of community health centers in the country. Today, over 171,000 Vermonters rely on health centers for their care because they know they will get high quality health care regardless of their ability to pay. Our health centers are doing incredible work, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this construction and renovation funding will help Vermont’s health centers continue to provide quality care, respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for future public health crises.”
Federally qualified health centers offer primary, mental, and dental care, as well as substance use disorder treatment and affordable prescription drugs, serving nearly one-in-three Vermonters each year. Vermont’s health centers will use this federal funding to construct new facilities, renovate and expand existing facilities, and purchase equipment — including telehealth technology, mobile medical vans, and freezers to store vaccines — to enhance the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health challenges.
Sanders has been a longtime champion of community health centers, having secured $11 billion in the Affordable Care Act to expand and operate health centers across the country to ensure Americans have access to affordable and quality care. In 2019, he re-introduced the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), which would expand resources to community health centers by ten percent annually over five years, and double the number of patients health centers have the capacity to serve, to reach 50 million people.
Tess Kuenning President and CEO Bi-State Primary Care Association, said “Vermont Health Centers serve as the primary care and public health backbone for thirty percent of Vermonters. With this essential supplemental funding, Health Centers are able to increase their COVID-19 response by assuring Vermonters have access to needed comprehensive medical, mental health, and dental care. The Health Centers are exceedingly grateful to Senator Sanders for his leadership as a long-term stalwart voice bringing critical resources to every corner in Vermont for those most in need”
“What we’re accomplishing in Vermont is a real achievement,” said Sanders. “But there is also much more to be done, which is why I am currently fighting for increased funding for community health centers in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, along with funding for the National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, and Nursing Corps, as well as to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care. Health centers are the center of so many of our rural communities in Vermont and, if this legislation is passed, will have an important role to play in providing new benefits to seniors and training the next generation of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.”
For a map of the FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Funding for Health Center Construction and Capital Improvements award recipients, visit: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/program-opportunities/american-rescue-plan/arp-capital-improvements/fy21-awards.