WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Health and Human Service (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge have announced a joint-agency effort to increase access to COVID-19 prevention and treatment services, including testing and vaccinations, among disproportionately affected communities, including among HUD-assisted households and people experiencing homelessness.
This program will leverage the Health Center COVID-19 health Vaccine Program which currently provides a direct supply of vaccines to nearly 800 health centers across the country. HHS and HUD expect the effort will reach over 6,000 multifamily housing properties, 6,700 homeless shelters, and approximately 7,500 public housing properties across the country to respond to and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Secretaries Becerra and Fudge unveiled the joint agreement during a visit to Community of Hope. Located in Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., Community of Hope is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) supported by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration and a HUD-funded homeless services and housing provider for families with children.
“Innovating and reaching people where they are is a critical part of advancing President Biden’s vision to create a healthier America,” said HHS Secretary Becerra. HHS and HUD have committed to working collaboratively to leverage available resources to increase access to the full scope of COVID-19 prevention and treatment services – such as tests and vaccines –among families and individuals living in public housing. I’m thrilled to work hand-in-hand with my partner Secretary Fudge as we work towards a more accessible and equitable health care system.”
“More than 100 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. Yet there are many others who still need help getting the vaccine. To raise our vaccination numbers even higher, we must continue to center our efforts around the guiding principle of equity,” said HUD Secretary Fudge. “Many of the people that HUD serves are among the most vulnerable in our society. They’re seniors, they’re people with disabilities, they’re people of color from households of modest means, and they’re people who are experiencing homelessness. This new partnership between HHS and HUD is about saving lives by expanding access to comprehensive COVID care for those in need. It’s about meeting people where they are—and about bringing health care home.”
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to an equitable response to COVID-19, this joint HUD-HHS effort recognizes that bringing vaccinations to all Americans means adding highly-targeted efforts focused on vulnerable communities alongside mass vaccination efforts for the general public.
“We encourage all community health centers to establish or further expand existing partnerships with local HUD grantees and program participants, including single- and multi-family housing owners and managers, public housing authorities, Continuums of Care, and homeless providers,” Secretaries Fudge and Becerra wrote in their letter. “These partnerships should engage at the local level as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent, mitigate, and respond to COVID-19, including through testing, treatment, and vaccination. This includes accessible, culturally responsive outreach on vaccine safety and efficacy to increase vaccine confidence.”
In their letter, the Secretaries direct community health centers, HUD grantees, and others to facilitate broader access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing. The letter lays out several steps they can take to achieve this, including assisting with registering and scheduling COVID-19 tests and vaccination appointments and facilitating on-site vaccine clinics at HUD-assisted or insured properties, public housing developments, homeless shelters, and through mobile facilities serving people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
During their visit to Community of Hope, Secretaries Fudge and Becerra participated in a roundtable with President and CEO Kelly Sweeney McShane, staff, and clients, and toured the facility to learn about the organization’s work to improve outcomes for low-income, homeless, and underserved families in Washington, DC.
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