On November 10, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the agency would invest an additional $785 million to develop equity-focused programs and initiatives in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new investments, which were authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act, are a direct response to recommendations contained within the Presidential Health Equity Task Force’s final report, which focuses on how the federal government can work with local and community health to increase long-term access to vaccines and therapeutics, mitigate the pandemic’s impact on behavioral health, and promote equitable health care practices.
In January 2021, the White House created the Presidential Health Equity Task through Executive Order 13995, with the purpose of identifying and eliminating health and social disparities that result in disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19 exposure, illness, hospitalization and death. The final report is a culmination of the Task Force’s work across its eight public meetings,
Following the Task Force’s recommendations, HHS will allocate the funds as follows:
- Public Health Workforce: $240 million distributed through the Health, Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop the pipeline of public health workers in the most underserved communities through apprenticeship programs that provide education and on the job training in emergency departments, health centers, clinics, state and local health centers.
- Tribal Communities: $210 million from the Indian Health Service (IHS) to build the public health workforce in Tribal communities and support other services across indigenous communities.
- People with Disabilities and Older Adults: $150 million through the Administration for Community Health Living to address and increase the disability and aging workforce and better support the health and safety of people with disabilities and older adults who are at increased risk of illness from the COVID-19 virus.
- Community-Based Organizations: $140 million distributed through HRSA to participants in the community-based organization (CBO) vaccine outreach initiative established in May. The initiative supports local vaccine efforts to educate, provide resources, and address barriers in high-risk and underserved communities.
- Public Health Workforce Diversity: $35 million through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand recruitment and pipeline programs to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the public health workforce. Funding will be distributed through the CDC’s Science Ambassador program and the Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) program.
Funding will be distributed through new and existing grant mechanisms and programmatic initiatives under the respective agencies, of which counties and other local entities may be direct recipients or participants. Counties are critical in the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and have been key providers of local public health services and frontline service providers for the medically vulnerable and underrepresented communities. NACo will continue to monitor and report out on grant opportunities for counties as a result of these new investments.
- NACo Report: The County Role in Promoting Health Equity During COVID-19
- County News Article: Health legislation to focus on equity, social determinants of health
- NACo Blog: President Biden signs health-related COVID-19 executive orders