Billions from COVID relief bill heading to states, health centers for vaccines and more

WASHINGTON – Community health centers across the country will receive more than $6 billion from the federal government to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment for vulnerable populations, the administration announced Thursday.

An additional $3 billion will be distributed to states, territories and some large cities for initiatives intended to increase vaccine access, acceptance and uptake.

Another $330 million will go directly to support community health workers.

The funding comes primarily through the recently passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Community health centers disproportionately benefit underserved communities, such as the poor, minorities and people living in rural areas.

Nearly 1,400 centers will receive funding, beginning in April.

Jewelean Jackson, a patient, community health worker and former governing board chair at  Minnesota's Community-University Health Care Center, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to expanding testing and vaccinations, the money is also intended for basic health services for people at higher risk for COVID-19 and to expand centers’ operational capacity, including improving buildings and adding mobile units.

Like the health center funding, the $3 billion heading to states is also meant to help those hardest hit by the pandemic, including minority communities and rural areas.

For example, a rural, faith-based group might get funding for a door-to-door outreach program to help residents schedule vaccination appointments, according to the administration.

The funding could also support outreach by bilingual community health workers or by nonprofit groups in high-poverty communities who can help clients get to vaccination sites.

In addition, the administration announced it will be providing vaccines directly to dialysis treatment centers so patients can get vaccinated during one of their regular appointments.

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