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Survey: Federal stimulus funds alone will not address health center capital needs

9-14-09 Feature Story:

Following years of underfunded capital budgets, a recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers reveals startling long-term gaps in resources for facility renovation and expansion and technology infrastructure development at health centers across Massachusetts. The 40 health centers responding to the survey reported a total need approaching $360 million for long-planned capital projects.

According to the survey, 27 of 40 eligible health centers in Massachusetts applied for the recent round of federal Facility Investment Program (FIP) funding. Remarkably, the data indicate that even if all 27 health centers are awarded their FIP funding requests, they still face a total gap of $132 million in project resource need.

What's more, HRSA Associate Administrator Jim Macrae has indicated that federal stimulus resources for the Facility Investment Program (FIP) -- which total $515 million -- fall considerably short of health center capital need nationally. The federal agency has received more than 600 applications, reflecting $3.2 billion in funding requests. According to Macrae, HRSA expects to fund an estimated 103 applications at around $5 million each in early November.

"The breadth of Massachusetts health center capital need, coupled with the fact that federal dollars must be stretched across the 50 states, means that the Commonwealth cannot solely rely on aid from Washington," said James W. Hunt, Jr., League President & CEO. "We are working closely with Massachusetts' Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby to identify strategies for addressing this need."

The need comes at a time when the state is relying on health centers to assure health access for both the newly insured and the recently uninsured, many of whom have lost jobs along with their employer-sponsored health insurance as a result of the economic downturn.

"Community health centers are working to ensure the promise of health reform for all Massachusetts residents," said Hunt. "We will continue to look for state, federal and private investments in health centers that will pay significant health and economic dividends now and down the road."

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