“While the bill holds much promise, it is critical that it be implemented in a way that fully supports the work of our local health departments… by ensuring that sufficient funding actually reaches the community level in a timely manner…”
Washington, DC, March 10, 2021 — The National Association of County and City Health Officials, on behalf of the country’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, released the following statement by Lori Tremmel Freeman, Chief Executive Officer regarding the passage today of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (HR 1319).
“One year ago, the nation as a whole was coming to realize the threat that COVID-19 posed to our lives, health, and everyday activities as a society. Our members—the local health department staff and leaders in communities across the country—have been leading on the front lines of all aspects of the pandemic response, conducting critical activities like testing and contact tracing, communicating with the public to help reduce risk, and consulting with schools and businesses about how to operate safely. Today, they are leading the vaccination efforts that provide such hope for the future, while monitoring variants and addressing inequities that threaten our success.
“However far too many have done so with limited staff and insufficient or unpredictable resources. The passage of the American Rescue Plan Act could be a game changer. The bill provides critically needed funds for the ongoing public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding for contact tracing and other mitigation efforts, vaccination activities, and data surveillance. Importantly, it includes strong resources for public health’s workforce, and a significant investment in the nation’s Medical Reserve Corps, whose volunteers have made significant contributions to support the work of public health departments during the crisis.
Beyond money for public health, the bill also recognizes that a healthy economy is essential for individual health. Over the past year, millions have lost jobs, families have struggled with food insecurity, and mental health issues have been exacerbated through the months of isolation. This ambitious legislation provides funds to stimulate the economy with direct payments to individuals and to strengthen the social safety net with additional child tax credits and other supports. There will be long lasting economic and social impacts from the pandemic, and this funding is essential to limit the permanent damage to individuals, families, and the economy. Similarly, direct funds for local and state governments are also critical to shore up these entities who have been hit by tax revenue shortfalls, which can threaten the operation of local health departments for a while.
“While the bill holds much promise, it is critical that it be implemented in a way that fully supports the work of our local health departments on the ground by ensuring that sufficient funding actually reaches the community level in a timely manner to support the ongoing work of local health departments. This is essential across activities, including mitigation, vaccination, workforce capacity, and data modernization. It is essential that the funds included in this legislation reach local health departments quickly, efficiently, and equitably, and that the federal government tracks these funds publicly. NACCHO will continue to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) towards transparency and equity in funding by obtaining tracking of dollars allocated to local health departments, as well as to ensure that the expertise of local health departments is better incorporated into our national response efforts. Similarly, investments in data modernization and infrastructure will help to ensure that the public health system at the local, state, and federal levels is better prepared for emerging public health threats. We also must ensure that the money allocated to bolster the public health workforce really targets the health departments in need and is set up in a way to ensure sustainability in staffing over time.
“We call on Congress and the Administration to help ensure that these funds and the plans they support meaningfully include the work of local health departments. Full coordination across the federal-state-local public health partnership is critical to protect the public and help us as a nation to emerge from this unprecedented crisis.”
Highlights for public health and local communities include:
- $46 billion in funding to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to detect, diagnose, trace, monitor and mitigate COVID-19 infections.
- $7.5 billion in funding for the CDC to support vaccine related activities to prepare, promote, distribute, administer, monitor, and track COVID-19 vaccines.
- $7.66 billion in funding to HHS to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce.
- $100 million to the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), with two-thirds of MRC units administered by local health departments.
- In 2020, MRC units provided 800,000 volunteer hours to respond to COVID-19 and provided more than 26,000 hours in January 2021 alone.
- $500 million to the CDC to support health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization initiatives and to establish, expand, and maintain efforts to modernize the United States’ disease warning system to forecast and track hotspots for COVID-19.
- $130 billion for payments to metropolitan cities, local government with populations under 50,000, and counties to mitigate the fiscal effects from the pandemic.
A full summary of the American Rescue Plan Act is here.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.