California Congresswomen introduce COVID Community Care Act
California Congresswomen Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, and Judy Chu on Wednesday announced the introduction of a new bill aimed at preventing and responding to COVID-19 in medically underserved communities. Joining the California lawmakers in introducing the bill were US Reps. Robin Kelly (IL-2), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Deb Haaland (NM-1), and Sharice Davids (KS-3).
The bill, referred to as the COVID Community Care Act, would provide $8 billion in grants for non-profits, faith-based, and community organizations to implement a comprehensive program to support underserved communities during the pandemic. An additional $400 million is allocated in the legislation to be used to respond to COVID-19 through programs and services administered by the Indian Health Service, Tribes, and Tribal organizations.
The bill defines “medically underserved communities” as areas with a rate of infection, hospitalization, or death above the national average, and a high percentage of racial and ethnic minorities. The term also applies to communities above the 90th percentile on the Area Deprivation Index – a measurement of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Grant money would be used for diagnostic and serological testing, the provision of personal protective equipment to essential workers, the facilitation of voluntary isolation and quarantine, and the creation of a multilingual, culturally diverse social marketing campaign to inform community members about health precautions and assistance programs.
Another key component outlined in the bill is the use of grant money for contact tracing support. In order to create an effective contact tracing program in the community, the legislation stipulates that contact tracers must have experience in medically underserved communities and have relationships with individuals who live in underserved communities.
“In order for contact tracing to be successful, the community must be involved in coming up with and implementing strategies to combat this virus,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a prepared statement. “It’s important that contact tracers are trusted community members. I am proud to stand with Congresswoman Lee on this important piece of legislation and urge Congress to act quickly to help communities being disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.”
“Systemic racism and inequality are at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of the crises we see today,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “The legacy of discrimination in health care against Black and Brown people continues to impact the distrust between underserved communities and health care workers. It’s time we acted at the community level to build trust and distribute lifesaving public health information. This legislation is an important step in bringing contact tracing and resources to communities of color who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.”