As health centers around the country have made clear, the expiration of the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) on October 1, and with it, 70% of total grant funding for the Health Centers Program, is already having an impact at health centers nationwide. While each individual health center won't experience a direct change to grant funding until the beginning of their next budget period, NACHC's recent nationwide survey shows clearly that there is a major impact generated by simply not knowing the future certainty and stability. This "indirect impact" is impacting operations now, hurting recruitment and impeding health centers' ability to sign contracts, access financing and plan into the future.
With a bill passed out of Committee (on a party-line vote due to disagreement over how extensions would be paid for), and even as bipartisan negotiations continue in the House on finding a resolution, advocates have new and continuing opportunities to ask Members to demonstrate their support for timely resolution of the funding cliff:
- In the House, where over 200 Members of Congress have cosponsored the CHIME Act (bipartisan legislation that sends a strong message of support for a long-term extension), a group of Members is now leading a sign-on letter to House leaders urging "a bipartisan agreement on a five-year reauthorization." That letter, led by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) can be found here. Advocates can click here to email your Members about signing onto the CHIME Act, and here to find a call script and phone number to call to ask your Member to sign the Stefanik-Tsongas letter.
- In the Senate, with a bipartisan letter already signed by 70 Senators and sent last month, we are focused on building up the list of cosponsors on the Senate version of the CHIME legislation, S.1899. Thus far, 16 Senators have signed on. The bill's lead sponsors, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have agreed to add one Senator of each party in pairs - meaning we need to focus on getting Republican Senators to sign on, as a dozen or more Democratic Senators have indicated their interest in cosponsoring, and are currently "in the queue."
Advocates around the country have been pledging to fight to fix the cliff until it's fixed. Congress has heard that message and the advocacy is making a difference - but we can't let up now. The requests laid out above will give every advocate a chance to continue pushing their Members of Congress to raise a bipartisan cliff fix up the priority list, and to take action NOW to provide certainty and predictability for health centers and their patients.