Last week, I presented to the Shelby County Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee our planned allocations for the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds coming to our county. Thanks to President Joe Biden, these new resources will allow us to continue programs developed over the last 18 months of the pandemic to meet the needs of Shelby County residents. We will also be able to fund new programs that address the needs that were created or exposed by this ongoing global health emergency.
Expand healthcare access for the uninsured
The pandemic has made abundantly clear our community’s disparities in access to healthcare, especially for folks who are uninsured. Our proposal utilizes $4.4 million for a new program that would give access to preventative healthcare for many uninsured county residents. We have more than 100,000 Shelby County residents who are uninsured spread out across our community. This program would provide a primary care visit and a healthcare screening for thousands. The healthcare providers will be able to identify underlying conditions, educate patients on preventative care, and when possible, help enroll eligible patients in insurance programs. The pandemic brought into sharp focus the severe complications that undiagnosed underlying conditions can create for folks who contract the coronavirus. The program would work in tandem with our ongoing COVID response.
Invest in hospitals and public health
Our proposal also significantly increases support for hospitals and public health with nearly $19.1 million set aside for Regional One Health. That amount nearly doubles our yearly allocation to Regional One and is likely the one of the largest commitments from a local government to a public hospital in the state, if not the nation. Additionally, there is $1.9 million to expand and renovate Health Department clinics. We fully expect to see a greater demand for services at those clinics going forward. Also, there is nearly $900,0000 for vaccination expenses in the Whitehaven area and other historic communities.
Subsidize food assistance, broadband, and housing
In addition, we will continue to provide aid to our residents who face food insecurity. Our plan includes $1 million for food assistance, an investment that will result in three million meals served. Another lesson learned during the past 18 months was the great imbalance in the access to the internet. Last year’s online learning model showed how critical it is for our county’s students to have the reliable internet they need to learn. We’d use $497,000 toward a plan to bolster broadband access throughout the county and help bridge the digital divide. There is also funding for several housing insecurity programs. Those include repairs and weatherization for seniors and low-income homeowners.
These are just a few items on what is a long, ambitious, but very actionable plan to take us into the next phase of our pandemic response. Again, because of President Biden’s vision, we have the resources and the ability to allocate this new federal money to continue the successful programs created during the pandemic and establish new ones that benefit all of Shelby County.
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