May 21, 2021

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Applauds Release of Additional Funding to Develop Community-Based Workforce to Address Vaccine Equity

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) today applauded the release of an additional $121 million to develop a community-based workforce of trusted messengers to deliver public health information, increase vaccine confidence, and address barriers to vaccination for vulnerable and medically underserved communities. 

In May, the White House announced that $250 million would be made available to community-based organizations to hire and mobilize community outreach workers and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released $125 million in its first round of funding. Yesterday, HRSA posted the second round of funding of $121 million for eligible applicants. This program, which is reflected in Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s legislation, the COVID Community Care Act, invests in community-based organizations to provide COVID-19 testing and tracing services, lead community outreach to distribute vaccines and public health information, as well as build vaccine confidence. 

“I’m glad to see the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Xavier Becerra make this critical investment in supporting medically underserved communities and communities of color who are facing the impacts of systemic racism on top of a global pandemic,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “I was proud to lead the effort in Congress to invest in a community-based workforce of trusted messengers to build confidence in vaccines and lead COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably distributed.”

The last two COVID relief packages included provisions consistent with Congresswoman Lee and Senator Warren’s legislation, the COVID Community Care Act. The American Rescue Plan (ARP), included the following language based on Rep. Lee and Senator Warren’s legislation: 

  • $7.5 billion for CDC with explicit uses of funds for underserved populations and COVID-19-related activities in our communities, including community vaccination centers, mobile vaccination units, and transportation of individuals to facilitate vaccinations, particularly for underserved populations. 
  • $1 billion in funding for vaccine confidence activities through the CDC. The goal is to increase vaccine confidence, increase education on the vaccine, and improve vaccination rates. 
  • $47.8 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and mitigation activities. Most notably, as envisioned by the COVID Community Care Act, the ARP  includes  partnerships with academic and research laboratories, community-based testing sites and community-based organizations; or mobile health units, particularly in medically underserved areas. The funding can also be used to improve data collection and expand the public workforce.
  • $7.6 billion in funding for community health centers to provide vaccination, testing, tracing, and community outreach and education activities related to COVID–19. 
  • $7.66 billion to expand the public health workforce. This funding can be used to recruit, hire, and train of individuals, including those employed by a nonprofit private or public organization with demonstrated expertise in implementing public health programs and established relationships with such State, territorial, or local public health departments, particularly in medically underserved areas. 
  • More than $6 billion for Native health systems, including the Indian Health Service, part of the largest Federal investment in history for Native programs.