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Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

Biden administration pledges more than $1.6B for COVID-19 testing, mitigation in high-risk communities

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Drawing on funds from the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration announced last week that its Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will invest more than $1.6 billion into testing and mitigation efforts focused on the communities most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“As we continue the vaccination program to get more Americans protected, it is important that we double down on our efforts to increase testing, especially in vulnerable communities,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can make sure high-risk environments like correctional facilities and shelters for those experiencing homelessness have greater capacity for testing to prevent potential outbreaks and continue our nation’s progress in moving out of the pandemic.”

With the rapid spread of COVID-19’s Delta Variant, and somewhat slowing vaccination numbers, the White House wants to target areas where the more transmissible variant is surging. Funding will support detection, diagnosis, tracing, monitoring of infections and mitigation efforts among homeless shelters, treatment facilities and domestic violence shelters, as well as federal, state, and local correctional facilities.

Broken down, the funding will include $100 million for expanding testing and mitigation resources for those with mental health and substance use disorders, $80 million for efforts among America’s homeless population, and $169 million for prison populations, among others, but the greatest amount will go toward local and tribal shelters for survivors of domestic and dating violence, at $550 million.

For survivors of domestic or dating abuse, these funds will go beyond testing and mitigation but also support cultural competency training and technical assistance for implementation and guaranteeing access to testing and mobile health unit services. It will also help support groups to better provide confidential reporting with local health departments.

HHS will provide funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for those struggling with mental health or addiction. This will aid rapid on-site testing and aid sites’ workforces in training and technical assistance, be it for mobile health units, personal protective equipment, or expanding programs to implement COVID-response services.

For the homeless or those in group homes, the $80 million will support test acquisition, hiring of workers, and the procurement of important supplies such as handwashing stations, sanitizer, and masks, along with testing and mitigation. In prisons, funding will go toward testing, surveillance, vaccination, and hospital costs. It will be supplemented by $700 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice. That additional funding will bolster diagnostic and screening programs for the incarcerated, staff and visitors, and can also be used for contact tracing, isolation strategies, infection control practices, education, and more.