After much debate, both the House and the Senate have approved passage of the “CRomnibus” spending plan that will allow the government to remain funded through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation comprises 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill which funds the Health Centers Program.
This bill includes a total program level of $5.1 billion in funding for the Health Centers program – $1.5 billion in discretionary funding and full access to the final $3.6 billion in mandatory funding available in the Health Center Fund – which represents a $1.4 billion increase over what was spent on health centers during FY2014. Of this additional $1.4 billion, no less than $165 million will be allocated to base grant adjustments; no less than $350 million will be used to support new access points (NAP), and up to $150 million will be put toward construction and capital improvement projects.
While approval of this legislation is certainly good news, it does nothing to address the funding cliff faced by health centers and the National Health Service Corps / Teaching Health Center primary care workforce programs at the end of the fiscal year, when the Health Center Fund will expire. Unless Congress takes specific action to extend this funding before September 30, 2015, the stability and sustainability of these programs will be seriously threatened at a time when demand for their services continues to rise. It will take strong and consistent effort on behalf of all Health Center Advocates (including you!) to avert this federal funding shortfall. Please stay tuned for new action alerts in the weeks ahead, and be prepared to respond – your voice is needed!