Joe Cunningham joins bipartisan effort to address health disparities in underserved communities

South Carolina News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCBD) – Representative Joe Cunningham is among a group of bipartisan lawmakers working to “prioritize programs and services for underserved communities and provide targeted resources to address health disparities in any future coronavirus response legislation.”

In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the lawmakers request that specific provisions addressing needs of minority communities be included in any future COVID-19 packages. They cite data provided by the COVID Racial Data Tracker, which indicates that “black Americans are dying at nearly two times their national population share.”

In South Carolina, black Americans account for only 27% of the population, but 42% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 56% of COVID-19 related deaths.

The discrepancies are linked to social determinants of health, “including but not limited to employment, housing, health insurance and medical care, neighborhood pollution, and food deserts.” The leaders argue that the “response to this pandemic will be insufficient if we do not tackle these disparities directly and prioritize policies in an equitable and just way.”

Some suggestions put forth by the group include increased target testing in communities of color and increased access to “healthcare and social support services, including treatment.”

To achieve these goals, the lawmakers ask that the following be included in legislation:

  • $75 billion for testing, contact tracing, and other activities necessary to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.
  • $2.1 billion for federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
  • $7.6 billion in emergency funding for Health Centers, which have been shown to reduce health disparities and improve the health of vulnerable populations, to expand the capacity to provide testing, triage, and care for COVID-19 and other health care services across the country. Additionally, Health Centers need stability and should no longer be faced with an uncertain future. It is imperative we provide at least a five-year extension at a minimum of $69.7 billion so they can expand their presence and provide more services to more patients.
  • $2.1 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to address health needs related to COVID-19 for Native Americans.
  • $38.5 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase mental health support and substance abuse treatment during COVID-19 and to offer increased outreach.

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