Central Health urges Congress to include funding for community health centers in federal budget proposal

Dr. Guadalupe Zamora, Central Health Board Chair, speaks at a press conference urging congress to renew funding to the Community Health Center Fund.

Dr. Guadalupe Zamora, Central Health Board Chair, speaks at a press conference urging congress to renew funding to the Community Health Center Fund.

UPDATED Feb. 9

A spending bill passed by Congress Friday and signed by President Trump provides more than $7 billion for community health center funding which extends through Sept. 30, 2019, a press release from Central Health stated Feb. 9.

"Congress has not yet approved discretionary appropriations worth about $1.5 billion for the nation’s community health centers," Jason Fournier, CEO of CommUnity Health Care Centers said in the release. "For CommUnityCare these additional appropriates are worth about $1.6 million. This discretionary funding is currently delayed as part of the annual budget negotiations Congress continues to debate, with action now needed by March 23, 2018."

POSTED Feb. 7

Central Health held a press conference Tuesday to call U.S. Senators to include funding for the Community Health Center Fund, which provides funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, in the federal budget proposal.

Shortly after the conference, the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan deal that included $7 billion in funding for Community Health Centers over the next 2 years, a press release from Texas Association of Community Health Centers confirmed.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure and send it to the House before government funding expires at the end of Thursday, the expiration of the continuing resolution that Congress passed in January, the release stated.

The package would also extend a reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, for 10 years, the statement said.

Funding for FQHCs, expired on Oct. 1, 2017, putting centers including CommUnityCare and Lone Star Circle of Care in Travis County at risk of running out of federal funding entirely by the end of March, Jason Fournier, CEO of CommUnity Health Care Centers said.

"I can equivocally say this is probably the most challenging funding period that we've ever faced as health centers," Mike Geeslin, President and CEO of Central Health, said.

A budget proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 6, also included two years of funding for the Community Health Center Fund, Fournier said at the conference.

Last year, CommUnity Health Centers in Travis County served 96,000 patients, with 350,000 visits, Fournier said. If federal funding for the Community Health Fund doesn't make it into a final federal budget agreed upon by the House and the Senate and approved by President Trump, it could result in the loss of up to $4.2 million in funding for Travis County alone, Fournier said.

Barbara Shirley, a member of CommUnity Care Center's board of directors, said she first received care at a CommUnity Care Center when she lost her job and her insurance coverage 15 years ago. She said the care she received following a heart attack saved her life.

"Without the work we do here, people will die. People think I'm saying that loosely but I would have died if I didn't have access to that care," Shirley said.

While prioritizing funding for Community Health Centers has been subject to debate within Congress, Geeslin said he is hopeful lawmakers will keep the funding included in a final budget resolution between the House and the Senate.

"We hope strongly that our Congressional members will make the right decision in support of low-resourced individuals and vulnerable populations across the country," Geeslin said.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

Travis County expects about 12% of registered voters to cast a mail-in ballot in the Nov. 3 election. The county has set up drive-thru locations where voters can hand-deliver their mail-in ballots to county staff. The image shows the traffic flow at the 700 Lavaca Street parking garage. Additional drive-thru locations will be open at 1010 Lavaca St. and 5501 Airport Blvd. (Design by Miranda Baker)
Expecting 100,000 mail-in ballots, Travis County expands voting options

The county clerk has set up drive-thru options to deliver mail-in ballots, expanded early voting hours and identified new in--person polling locations.

Crimson Creek Smokehouse specializes in pork barbecue including pork belly burnt ends. (Courtesy Crimson Creek Smokehouse)
10,000 Pots on the move, a new barbecue joint and more Southwest Austin business news

Check out the latest business news from Southwest Austin and Dripping Springs.

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke at a board meeting Sept. 28 about the district's reopening plan as well as enrollment declines. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD enrollment down by 5,000 students to start 2020-21 school year

The enrollment decrease could result in $48 million in lost state revenue, according to the district.

Capital Metro's board of directors approved the public transportation agency's $390.5 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21 on Sept. 28. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
$390.5 million Capital Metro budget projects $14 million reduction in sales tax revenue

Cap Metro's sales tax revenue for the upcoming year landed between the best- and worst-case projections its CFO had presented earlier this summer.

Bear Creek Elementary School teacher Jewellyn Forrest returned to her 4th grade classroom on Sept. 8 to begin teaching virtually. The AISD school year has begun completely virtually. On Oct. 5, students will begin returning to campus. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD community grapples with in-person return

Some students are set to return to Austin ISD campuses on Oct. 5, setting up difficult decisions for parents, teachers and administrators.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.

(Courtesy New Braunfels Ghost Tours)
Scary good: New Braunfels Ghost Tours makes top 10 list and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Travis County voter round-up, ballot box
November 2020 election guide: Who's on the ballot, where to vote and how to drop off your mail-in ballot in Travis County

Your guide to the November 2020 ballot, voting locations and mail-in ballot information for Travis County residents.

Simon Madera, owner of Taco Flats, said business is down 40% across the board but that he has readjusted the business model to stay afloat in the pandemic long term. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
After surviving six months, Austin's workers, small businesses are acknowledging pandemic's long-term reality

After months of day-to-day reassessments, many in the business community are now figuring out how to make it to the other end of the pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

A photo of Elong Musk
After filing Travis County site plans, Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks to new gigafactory’s place in the company

Tesla has filed the intial site plans for a massive manufacturing plant in southeastern Travis County.