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May 07, 2021

Health Law Weekly

Biden Administration Announces Nearly $1 Billion to Boost COVID-19 Response in Rural Communities

  • May 07, 2021

The Biden administration is making nearly $1 billion available to help rural health care providers expand access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and other response efforts, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced May 4.

"Rural health providers are vital to ensure equity in COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and in making sure rural residents have the information about vaccine safety, especially for populations who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 infection or severe illness due to systemic health and social inequities and geographic isolation," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) plans to provide $460 million to more than 4,600 rural health clinics (RHCs) across the country to expand and increase COVID-19 testing and boost efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus in local communities. The agency this summer will issue up to $100,000 per RHC-certified clinic site.

Roughly 1,730 small rural hospitals (those with less than 50 beds) and Critical Access Hospitals will see up to $230,000 per hospital for COVID-19 testing and mitigation. HRSA plans to distribute a total of $398 million to small rural hospitals later in the year.

RHCs also will be able to receive vaccines directly from the federal government, separate from their local jurisdictions’ weekly allocation. HRSA is making nearly $100 million in grants available to RHCs to increase vaccine confidence, improve health care in rural areas, and reinforce key messages about COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

As part of the administration’s effort to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake in underserved communities, HHS also is making $250 million available for hiring and training community-based workforces to conduct outreach on the importance of getting vaccinated and to assist individuals in scheduling and getting to vaccine appointments.

“Increasing public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and boosting uptake remains a critical part of our fight against this virus,” Becerra said. “Today’s funding is critically important for connecting vulnerable and underserved communities with trusted health voices who can help deliver vaccinations and information to keep them safe and protect their loved ones.”

The new efforts come after President Biden announced May 4 a goal that 70% of the U.S. adult population have one vaccine shot by July 4. The administration also is aiming to have 160 million U.S. adults fully vaccinated by that date.