March 20, 2020

Warren, Sanders, Pressley, Davis Lead 165 Members of Congress in Calling for Billions in Community Health Center Funding to Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC — United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) led 165 lawmakers in calling on House and Senate leadership to dramatically increase long-term funding for community health centers (CHCs) in the third coronavirus legislative package being drafted by Congress to address the immediate economic and public-health emergency needs caused by the pandemic.

“Given the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak,” the members of Congress write, CHCs should receive “the highest levels of funding, consistent with or surpassing those outlined in the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act.” That legislation, sponsored by Sanders and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), provides CHCs with 10 percent annual funding increases over five years—nearly $7 billion more than flat-funding proposals being considered—thereby expanding care to 10 million more Americans by comparison.

“Community Health Centers are at the frontlines of this crisis,” the members of Congress note, “providing medical care and testing for over 29 million low-income people. It is of utmost importance that CHCs receive the long-term and robust resources necessary to meet the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable communities, especially as they work to test and care for patients during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

CHCs—a network of 1,400 facilities in all 50 states and U.S. territories—provide medical, dental, and mental health care, substance-abuse treatment, and low-cost prescription drugs for 29 million people. Their patients disproportionately include “communities of color, with African Americans making up more than one in five CHC patients,” the members of Congress added.

In addition to calling for 10-percent annual increases to community health centers in the third COVID-19 response package, the lawmakers stressed the need to assist medical professionals to tackle the pandemic, calling for increased funding for the National Health Service Corps and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program, which provide scholarships and loan repayment to 10,000 clinicians and trains residents in community-based ambulatory patient care centers.