As NY Reopens, Community Health Centers Are Still Reeling From The Financial Impacts Of Fighting The Virus & Are Facing Layoffs, Furloughs, Financial Difficulty 

Senators Say Critical Support For NY’s Frontline Healthcare Providers Is Needed, ASAP; Schumer, Gillibrand Call on HHS To Cut Through Red Tape And Prioritize Funding for Community Health Centers

Schumer, Gillibrand to HHS: New York Cannot Wait For Critical COVID Recovery Funding – Move To Support Our Health Centers Now

Following months of full-throated support for New York during coronavirus (COVID-19) package negotiations, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged Health and Human Services (HHS) to move quickly to support Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and FQHC look-alikes through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) for health care providers, which Schumer secured $175 billion for during negotiations for the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The senators explained that FQHCs, also known as community health centers (CHC), have been critical to New York’s COVID-19 response, serving as direct links between federal resources and the underserved in local communities, and have been hugely impacted by the financial difficulties of the ongoing crisis, with many centers forced to lay off or furlough medical staff.

Schumer and Gillibrand stressed that even as New York begins to reopen and heal from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, FQHCs are still dealing with the financial strain of the crisis and federal support is more critical now than ever.

“New York’s community health centers are a cornerstone of the state’s healthcare system and were our frontline armor in the battle against COVID-19. They deserve swift action and all the resources they need to sustain their vital operations,” said Senator Schumer. “While we are past the initial peak, it is important to keep our foot on the pedal and support the health centers that cared for us in our darkest hour. We must give our CHCs the proper resources and funding they need, which is why I am calling on HHS to cut through the red tape and join me in doing everything in their power to make sure that Upstate New Yorkers have access to medical help when they need it.”

“Community health centers are key to addressing and preventing the spread of this virus. Not only have they been on the front lines of New York’s public health response since the beginning of this crisis, but they also provide an essential health care safety net,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We need to ensure that these vital CHC’s receive the critical resources to survive this crisis and continue New York’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. I’m urging HHS to move this funding quickly so that all New Yorkers have access to health care in this critical time.”

The senators revealed that in the beginning of the pandemic, FQHCs were losing $30 million in revenue per week and the financial burden of the crisis has forced health centers across the state to lay off and furlough staff. In FQHC look-alikes which have yet to receive any federal funding from HHS, Schumer and Gillibrand stress that the situation is even more dire.

New York has over 760 FQHCs that serve nearly 11 million patients in a typical year. During the pandemic, FQHCs are serving as lifelines to many communities in New York, especially rural communities. Schumer and Gillibrand also said that the six FQHC look-alikes in New York have also served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle but not received any federal support so far.

Nationally, health centers have lost over $7.6 billion and been forced to lay off or furlough over 100,000 clinical and non-clinical staff during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar appears below:

Dear Secretary Azar,

We urge you to move quickly to support the nation’s Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and FQHC look-alikes by targeting funds from the $175 billion for providers in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHESSF) to these entities and supporting the supplemental appropriations for FQHCs and FQHC look-alikes in the House-passed HEROES Act. FQHCs, also referred to as community health centers, provide a critical safety net for the U.S. during times of crises, as they provide a direct link between federal resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local communities delivering care on the ground. New York continues to feel the effects of the pandemic after months as the state hardest hit by COVID-19 and in order to keep CHCs solvent to help respond to the pandemic, there is a need for an additional infusion of emergency funding as well as continued support for their operational needs.

FQHCs and FQHC look-alikes are community-based health care providers that provide primary care services in underserved areas and specifically important safety net providers in rural areas. New York’s community health centers are a cornerstone of the state’s healthcare system with nearly eleven million patient visits annually. Now more than ever, New York’s 760 Community Health Centers have become a lifeline by continuing to step up, save lives, and fight this deadly battle on the frontlines. Like all FQHCs, look-alike health centers meet the stringent requirements of Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act but do not receive Section 330 grant funds. There are currently over 80 FQHC look-alikes nationally, including six in New York, that have yet to receive the same critical financial support that FQHCS have received from federal supplemental appropriations despite serving in the same underserved communities as their FQHC counterparts.

Nationally, health centers have lost over $7.6 billion forcing over 100,000 clinical and non-clinical staff to lose their jobs during this public health crisis. This is especially concerning as health centers in New York State, and other areas highly impacted by COVID-19, have shifted resources away from routine primary care and toward caring for COVID-19 patients with limited and dwindling financial resources. During the beginning of the pandemic, the state’s CHCs were collectively losing $30 million in revenue per week. We have heard from numerous New York CHCs, which are supporting the New York state hospital system’s capacity to address this crisis, that these financial difficulties are already forcing them to let go of clinical and non-clinical staff. The situation is even more dire among our state’s FQHC look-alikes: two-thirds report furloughing, laying off or reducing hours for staff and half report closing care delivery sites

The federal government must provide further financial aid to these health centers as part of the larger effort to support our nation’s health care system as it responds to the twin public health and economics crises created by COVID-19. In order to continue to support the critical work CHCs are doing across the across the country and in New York State, we request that HHS prioritize funding specific to CHCs by providing funds from the PHSSEF specifically for CHCs in the next funding tranche. This support must include support not only for FQHCs but also FQHC look-alikes. We also ask that you support the recent House passed HEROES Act, which includes specific language to make these entities eligible for supplemental appropriations for community health centers.

Thank you for your attention to this critically important issue to support CHCs as they continue to provide high-quality care to Americans during the COVID-19 outbreak.



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