24 Sep Congress Provides Short-Term Funding for Community Health Centers
With just days left before the September 30th deadline, Congress passed a two-month spending package, known as a Continuing Resolution, to keep the federal government open. It was signed by the President on September 27. The bill also provides a short-term extension of funding for the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program through November 21st. This is an important step forward in securing long-term and stable funding for Community Health Centers, but our work is not yet done. We are going to need your continued advocacy in the weeks and months ahead in order to bring our funding across the finish line.
Let’s recap how we got here. The next federal fiscal year starts on October 1st and Congress still has been unable to agree on full year funding nor passed the twelve annual appropriations bills that fund most federal programs, including the Department of Health and Human Services. With only a few days left to fund these important federal programs, Congress chose to pass short-term funding as a strategy to keep the government running while they work to come up with a long-term agreement. This two-month extension will give Congress more time to continue negotiations around hot button political issues, including family planning and funding for the southern border wall, which have held up negotiations.
Congress recognized that several other critical programs, including the CHCF, were set to expire at the same time and took additional steps to add short-term extensions of these programs to the Continuing Resolution. That is why the spending package also extends two months of funding for the CHCF, NHSC, and THCGME programs, as well as Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), Medicaid programs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories, and postpones Medicaid cuts to low-income hospitals through November 21st.
So what happens next? Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions that we’ve received so far:
Does this Continuing Resolution Provide Long-Term Funding for the Health Center Program?
No. The Continuing Resolution extends programs that are funded with discretionary dollars at their current funding levels, including the previously mentioned portion of health center funding, through November 21st. In addition, Members of Congress added specific provisions to the Continuing Resolution to make sure it also extends current levels of mandatory funding for the CHCF, NHSC, and THCGME program through November 21st.
** As a reminder, Congress funds the Health Center Program using two different sources: (1) mandatory dollars from the CHCF (which represents just over 70 percent of our federal funding); and (2) discretionary dollars, also known as annual Appropriations, from Congress’ annual budget (which makes up the other roughly 30 percent of federal funding.) Dollars from these two sources combine to form the Section 330 grant that every health center receives. Both funding streams – the CHCF and our discretionary funding ‒ would have lapsed on September 30 without Congressional action.
How Do We Know that Congress Supports Health Centers?
The inclusion of a two-month extension for the CHCF, NHSC, and THCGME program in the Continuing Resolution is a strong sign of Congress’ commitment to health centers and the 29 million patients we serve. This is a clear signal that the hard work of health center advocates is paying off and that Congress understands the importance of the CHCF and the role that it plays for health centers.
When Will Funding for the Health Center Program Lapse?
The new deadline for both mandatory and discretionary funding for health centers and the NHSC, and mandatory funding for the THCGME program, is November 21st. In addition, the Continuing Resolution authorizes federal spending for every federal department through November 21st, preventing another government shutdown and ensuring federal agencies such as the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) can continue working on behalf of health centers. Congress will then have to take action once again before the new November 21st deadline in order to ensure health center funding will not lapse at that time.
What Happens Next?
Passage of the two-month Continuing Resolution gives legislators in Washington more time to finalize a long-term funding solution for the CHCF, the NHSC, and the THCGME program.
While pushing back the deadline for funding to just before Thanksgiving isn’t ideal, the two-month extension removes the immediate threat of disruption for health centers. That said, we know that health centers across the country are already reporting indirect impacts from the threat of a lapse in funding for the CHCF, and that even with a two-month extension, the uncertainty around funding continues to pose major challenges.
How Can I Help in the Months Ahead?
Over the next two months, we must continue working with legislators on both sides of the aisle in Congress to ensure health centers remain their number one priority. We need you to join us and mobilize advocates in your community to raise our collective voice in support of a long-term extension of our funding! Stay tuned to the HCAdvocacy blog for all the latest news from Washington. In the meantime, you can visit http://www.hcadvocacy.org/takeaction to help get long-term health center funding across the finish line by November 21st.