The administration aims to increase the number of vaccines sent to rural areas, expand testing and other COVID-19 protection services, as well as try to bolster confidence in the vaccines and combat vaccine hesitancy.
“Rural health providers are vital to ensure equity in COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and in making sure rural residents have the information about vaccine safety, especially for populations who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 infection or severe illness due to systemic health and social inequities and geographic isolation,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
More than 4,600 rural health clinics will get $460 million through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Health Clinic COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation Program. Each clinic could get up to $100,000 starting this summer. The agency will grant nearly $400 million more to small rural hospitals and critical-access hospitals. Those hospitals could receive up to $230,000 from HRSA later this year.
Rural health clinics can also get funding to address vaccine hesitancy through the Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program, backed by nearly $100 million in federal dollars.
In addition to the funding for rural areas, HRSA made available roughly $250 million for community-based organizations to hire and deploy community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists and others to help more people get vaccinated.
Congress included all the funding in March’s COVID-19 relief package, commonly known as the American Rescue Plan.