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Short-term funding goes out to some health centers

Short-term funding goes out to some health centers
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The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is sending some community health centers funding for January and February to help make up for the fact that Congress let a critical fund for them lapse.

Health centers provide comprehensive care to millions of the nation’s most vulnerable, and about 25 percent have grant periods starting Jan. 1. But Congress hasn’t renewed a major source of their federal funding, which expired Sept. 30, causing health centers to worry about their long-term stability.

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To compensate in the short-term, HRSA is providing two months of funding for the quarter of health centers with grant periods beginning Jan. 1 and has sent out the awards, an HRSA spokesperson told The Hill.

About 17 percent of health centers have grant periods beginning Feb. 1, and HRSA plans to send out one month of funding to those facilities soon, the spokesperson said. The money comes from fiscal 2018 discretionary appropriations and remaining mandatory funds; the agency plans to provide month-to-month continuation awards until the funding is depleted or Congress reauthorizes the program.

At issue is a fund comprising 70 percent of community health centers' federal funding. The pot of money was a noncontroversial provision of the Affordable Care Act and was reauthorized in 2015 for two years to the tune of $7.2 billion in total.

The uncertainty has led community health centers to scramble to make contingency plans, and has already had an impact on things like recruiting and retaining staff.

Although both Republicans and Democrats support health centers, the funding lapsed Sept. 30. It’s unclear if the money would come before the end of the year, but advocates have been pushing for the fund to be renewed quickly, along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other health programs.