Sanders announces bill to expand community health center funding

By:  Patricia LeBoeuf
Bennington Banner

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced a bill Thursday to expand funding for community health centers, in a move to counteract a coming loss of federal funding for these centers if Congress doesn't act by Sept. 30.

That date represents the end of the federal fiscal year, and no money has yet been allocated for the coming fiscal year for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), said Daniel McLean, spokesman for Sanders' office.

Sanders, along with House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., announced the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019 Thursday morning in a press conference, which was live-streamed.

The bill expands and extends funding for community health centers and provides $4.6 billion for capital projects, to allow health centers to expand services and modernize their facilities.

For fiscal 2019, the bill would allocate $5.63 billion in funding for federally qualified health centers; that funding would increase to $6.19 billion for fiscal 2020, with increases every year, up to $9.06 billion for fiscal 2024.

In Vermont, 176,858 patients were served by community health centers in 2017, according to state data from the National Association of Community Health Centers. This represents a 57 percent increase in patients since 2010.