Stories & News
Welcome to the end of the first month of 2021, after what felt like the longest year in history.
Without a doubt, COVID-19 relief and recovery remains one of Health Forward’s top priorities as vaccination efforts ramp up and the federal response to the pandemic continues to evolve with the Biden Administration taking office last week.
We recently adopted new policy agendas, which include advocacy for addressing public health injustices, equitable recovery from the pandemic, and short-term and long-term improvements to the funding of and provision of public health in both Kansas and Missouri. If you missed our policy agenda presentation and session previews from our government affairs consultants earlier this month, see the slides here.
As there is alignment with our policy agendas and is critical to the public health and economic recovery of our region, Health Forward has been tracking the relief and recovery packages proposed by the federal government.
In December, Congress passed a long-anticipated second COVID relief package as part of the Bipartisan-Bicameral Omnibus COVID Relief Deal. The Biden administration is expected to quickly implement their new, more aggressive, relief plan, with some work already underway. Recent efforts under both former president Trump’s administration and the Biden administration promise economic relief in a variety of forms and means for more equitable dissemination of COVID assistance.
The following is an overview of some of what we know from the current legislation and what we might expect in the next few weeks to months from the Biden Administration.
The legislation signed by former President Trump appropriated more than $1.4 trillion for fiscal year 2021 and included $900 billion for pandemic relief:
The week prior to taking office, President Joe Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) for economic and health care relief. Since his swearing in on January 20, the president has quickly started rolling out pieces of the plan, and we can expect swift action in the next few weeks.
The administration’s strategy will be focused on restoring trust with the American people, creating an accelerated vaccination plan, mitigating community spread, additional emergency relief, and addressing disparities in COVID response.
Legislation at the federal level significantly impacts how funding flows into our states and our region. We are following a number of bills that have been filed in Kansas and in Missouri that would limit the state and local government’s ability to respond quickly in times of emergency.
In Missouri, a few lawmakers have proposed bills that would remove authority from local health departments related to infectious or communicable diseases and limit their ability to make critical public health decisions, including Senate Bill 56.
Similarly, we also saw efforts to limit Governor Kelly’s authorities related to emergency declarations at the tail end of the 2020 legislative session. The ability to allocate emergency funding and make thoughtful and quick decisions is imperative in times of crisis, and we plan to closely follow activity related to public health authority.
Additionally, advocating for increased public health funding has been one of our priorities for years, and the pandemic has exacerbated the need to counteract the ongoing disinvestment in public health. It has also highlighted racial, ethnic, and geographic inequities that already existed across our systems, and the need to disaggregate public health data to better track the outcomes of the pandemic so that resources can be equitably deployed.
We are pleased by the proposed increases in federal relief and the inclusion of an equity focus of President Biden’s plan, and encouraged that the attention of our federal legislators remains on how individuals are to recover from the pandemic. Health Forward’s continued advocacy on these issues, and that of our partners, is critical to an equitable recovery from the pandemic.
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