As a part of the American Rescue Plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on May 5th the availability of nearly $1 billion to strengthen COVID-19 response efforts and increase vaccinations in rural communities. As part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to expanding access to vaccines and ensuring equity in the COVID-19 response, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a part of HHS, will increase the number of vaccines sent to rural communities, expand testing and other COVID-19 prevention services, and work to increase vaccine confidence by empowering trusted local voices with additional funding for outreach efforts in underserved communities.
HRSA’s Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program will provide $460 million to more than 4,600 rural health clinics (RHCs) across the country. RHCs will use the funds to maintain and increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing for rural residents, and broaden efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus in ways tailored to their local communities. HRSA will provide up to $100,000 per RHC-certified clinic site and will issue the funds this summer.
To further support COVID-19 testing in rural areas, HRSA will provide $398 million to existing grantees of the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) to work with approximately 1,730 small rural hospitals – those with fewer than 50 beds – and Critical Access Hospitals on COVID-19 testing and mitigation. SHIP state grantees will use the funding to support all eligible rural hospitals, up to $230,000 per hospital, and will issue the funds later in the year.
In addition, through the Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence (RHCVC) Program, HRSA will make nearly $100 million available in grants to eligible RHCs nationwide to address health equity gaps by offering support and resources to medically underserved rural communities where COVID-19 vaccine uptake lags in comparison to more populated areas. HRSA will fund all eligible RHCs that apply.
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