BURLINGTON, March 25 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Thursday that the state’s 11 federally qualified health centers will receive $33.37 million to expand access to vaccines, provide for ongoing testing and treatment, and ensure Vermonters are getting the care they need to recover from the hardship of the past year. This funding will be provided to health centers as a result of the American Rescue Plan, the stimulus package enacted earlier this month to provide relief and further address the health and economic crises we face.
Sanders, Chairman of both the Budget Committee and the HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security, who led the fight to increase funding for health centers in the American Rescue Plan, said, “I’m proud that Vermont has the highest per-capita use of community health centers in the country. Nearly one-in-three Vermonters rely on community health centers because they know they will get high quality health care, dental care, and affordable prescription drugs. $33 million, the biggest single investment made in the state’s community health centers in history, is an enormous amount of money and represents a huge leap forward for Vermonters’ health care.”
Federally qualified health centers offer critically important primary, mental, and oral health care, as well as substance use disorder treatment and affordable prescription drugs, serving 155,000 Vermonters each year. During an extremely difficult time, these health centers have continued to provide quality care to Vermonters from across the state, while facing significant financial challenges. This new federal funding will allow centers to keep their doors open and significantly expand their services. The American Rescue Package also provides $800 million nationally for the National Health Services Corp, which provides scholarships and loan repayment to clinicians who work in underserved and rural communities. This significant expansion in funding will bring needed health workers to practice in Vermont and help our centers serve more people.
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. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, in March of 2020, Sanders was joined by 164 of his congressional colleagues in calling for increased long-term funding for community health centers, consistent with the funding levels outlined in the Sanders-Clyburn bill. Since the beginning of the current public health crisis, Vermont community health centers have received more than $42 million in federal emergency funds.
“This funding is significant, but our work is not done until everyone in this country has access to affordable medical care when and where they need it. That is why I will continue to fight for long-term, robust funding for our community health centers so that they can care for our people long after this pandemic over,” said Sanders.
Tess Kuenning, President and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, said, “It is with sincere gratitude we thank Senator Sanders for his unwavering leadership and voice for those most in need. The release of Health Center funding marks a transformational moment in time when critical resources are dedicated to medically underserved communities. The funding will allow Vermont Health Centers to widen and deepen critical services for communities in need.”