Sen. Booker, Rep. Kelly Unveil Comprehensive Bill to Tackle COVID-19 Inequities

Sen. Booker, Rep. Kelly Unveil Comprehensive Bill to Tackle COVID-19 Inequities

$1.5 billion grant program would help grassroots organizations create, expand programs to improve health equity in their neighborhoods

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL) today unveiled comprehensive legislation to tackle the staggering COVID-19 health inequities, including racial inequities.

The Community Solutions for COVID-19 Act would establish a $1.5 billion grant program to help grassroots organizations create and expand hyperlocal programs to improve health equity and reduce or eliminate inequities in the prevalence and health outcomes of COVID-19. Such programs are already emerging across the country, including in New Jersey, but need more resources to drive greater impact.

COVID-19 is killing Americans of color, and especially black and indigenous Americans, at a disproportionately – and alarmingly –  high rate. The latest data released by the non-partisan APM Research Lab last week show that African-Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of whites, and in some states, the rate is as high as seven times the rate as whites. Earlier this month, the Navajo Nation surpassed the states of New Jersey and New York in COVID-19 cases per-capita.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated the deep structural, racial, and ethnic inequities that have cost the lives and livelihoods of people of color for centuries,“ Booker said. “Our bill aims to tackle the harmful effects of these and other pernicious and stark health inequities by empowering local communities to implement innovative solutions developed by them, for them. Many grassroots organizations on the ground are already doing incredible work in local communities to combat these inequities. Our bill aims to give them the resources they need to do more of it.”

“It’s no secret that the African American community and other communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by this terrible virus,” Congresswoman Kelly said. “The community organizations that are already in these neighborhoods should play a key role in the response, recovery and rebuilding. By building capacity at the hyperlocal level, we can have an immediate impact in the most affected communities while fostering long-term resilience.”

“Families USA thanks Senator Booker and Congresswoman Kelly for their tireless commitment to health equity and for advancing policies that will have a direct impact on communities hardest hit by COVID-19,” Amber Hewitt, Director of Health Equity, Families USA, said. “Health inequities are avoidable and preventable; however, our current pandemic has only increased disparity gaps. The Community Solutions for COVID-19 Act is evidence-based policy that we need right now. This bill will equip communities with the needed resources to mitigate the devastating effects of the current crisis as well as recover from the long-term impacts of the pandemic.”

“Viruses don’t discriminate, but it has become abundantly clear that the COIVD-19 pandemic is having an alarming and outsized impact on Black and brown people, immigrants, and other groups that historically have been subject to unjust discrimination and barriers to health care,” Emily Stewart, Executive Director of Community Catalyst, the country’s largest national consumer health advocacy organization, said. “We applaud Senator Booker and Representative Kelly for championing aggressive action to strengthen our nation’s response to COVID-19 in those communities where efforts have fallen short.”

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on Black and Brown people, who are bearing the brunt of both the economic fallout and the health impacts of this dreadful disease,” Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow for the Century Foundation, said. “The response thus far from government has fallen way short of what is needed. Health equity must be the focus from here on out. Community-based organizations are well-positioned to lead us in the provision of culturally-sensitive, patient-centered care. This bill helps ensure that organizations on the ground, including those that have been working in communities for decades, get the resources and funding they need in order to expand their essential work to address racial and ethnic health disparities. I want to commend and thank Senator Booker and Representative Kelly for taking bold action to ensure proper health care access for our communities.”

“We at the National Birth Equity Collaborative are grateful that Senator Booker and Congresswoman Kelly are taking a lead in ensuring that for the first time in our nation’s history, a response to a crisis will not lead to worsening health inequities by ensuring there are community led solutions and investments made from our Federal agencies are directly going to the people most impacted by racism,” Dr. Joia Crear Perry, President, National Birth Equity Collaborative, said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed long-standing inequities in Americans’ health and well-being,” John Auerbach, President and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, said. “A full, national recovery will only happen if we intentionally tailor resources and support for the communities most affected by the crisis.”

“The National Urban League applauds Senator Booker and Representative Kelly on the introduction of the Community Solutions for COVID-19 Act,” Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, said. “This legislation will send resources directly to the communities most impacted by this pandemic, which are the same communities who have historically been marginalized and have suffered from deep, persistent inequities that are leading to these adverse health outcomes today.  We urge Congress to quickly take up and pass this important legislation.”

The grant would be flexible – eligible entities would include a broad range of organizations, including nonprofits, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations, as long as the organization developed an innovative program addressing health inequities in their local communities.

Some examples of eligible programs grant funds could be used for include:

  • Acquiring and distributing medical supplies, like PPE, to communities that are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Helping individuals enroll in a health insurance plan that meets minimum essential coverage
  • Creating “pop-up” or mobile testing clinics in communities that are at an increased risk of COVID-19
  • Addressing social determinants of health, such as transportation, nutrition, housing, and working conditions, that impact COVID-19 prevalence and outcomes
  • Providing anti-racism and anti-bias training for health care providers and other relevant professionals
  • Creating and disseminating culturally-informed, linguistically-appropriate, and medically-accurate outreach and education on COVID-19

Full text of the bill is available here.

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