WNPR

Lapse Of Funding Leaves Connecticut's Community Health Centers Scrambling

Jan 23, 2018

Congress blew past a September 30 deadline to reauthorize federal funding for about 1,200 community health centers nationwide. The funding lapse is already having an impact in Connecticut.

Community health centers, which provide medical care to low-income people, are now making contingency plans.

In Connecticut, community health organizations receive more than $56 million in federal funding. Most of it comes from the Community Health Center Fund, a trust set up through the Affordable Care Act, while the rest comes from the annual federal budget.

But so far, Congress has not renewed funding for the health center trust fund, and there is still no federal budget in place. Deb Polun, Senior Director for Policy and Outreach at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut, said health organizations around the state are now preparing for the worst.

“They’ll probably restrict their hours,” Polun said. “They may end up having to unfortunately close some of their sites. My guess is, before they do any layoffs, they would try to pare back hours of staff to try to keep them on as much as they could. If this trust fund is not renewed and Connecticut loses $40 million in federal funds, this would impact 90,000 people in our state.”

Even though health centers haven’t lost funding yet, Polun said the uncertainty is already having an impact. Polun said health centers are reporting that they have been turned down by banks for restructuring loans and many have implemented a hiring freeze.

“We know that it’s already impacting access to care because health centers are leaving open these positions and they’re also unable to plan for the future,” she said.

There are 17 community health organizations in Connecticut with at least 100 locations. They serve 375,000 residents a year.