May 20, 2021

Lee and Pallone Urge HHS to Continue Funding to Fight COVID-19 in Medically Underserved Communities

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Senior Member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that grant funding made available for the COVID-19 response under the American Rescue Plan includes public and nonprofit entities such as community-based and faith-based organizations.  

Due to the legacy of structural racism in our public health system, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have disproportionately impacted communities of color and medically underserved communities. The disparities in COVID-19 outcomes makes access to testing, treatment, vaccines, and information in these communities even more urgent and critical.    

In their letter, the lawmakers urged HHS to ensure that the provisions enacted through the American Rescue Plan must reinforce the Administration’s commitment to health equity. These provisions mirror those in Congresswoman Lee and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s legislation, the COVID Community Care Act, which invests in programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 in medically underserved communities and among tribal populations.  

 “It is our hope that you will ensure that the grant funding made available for testing, contact tracing, vaccine awareness, outreach, and confidence also include public and nonprofit entities such as community-based and faith-based organizations, as outlined in H.R. 1835, the ‘COVID Community Care Act’ and the ‘Heroes Act,’” the lawmakers said. “We urge you to continue to develop funding opportunities such as these, which are critical steps towards bringing much needed resources to medically underserved communities by trusted messengers.” 

“We applaud the focus of this Administration, and in particular your department, in directing agencies to acknowledge and advance policies tackling the widening health inequities in the United States,” the lawmakers continued.  

In April, Congresswoman Lee and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) urged HHS Secretary Becerra to prioritize health equity in its response to COVID-19.   

For the full text of the letter, click here.