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Biden administration to provide $150M to boost COVID response in underserved, vulnerable areas

The Biden administration on April 19, 2021, will allocate $150 million from the American Rescue Plan to community-based health care providers across the nation to help boost their coronavirus response for "underserved communities and vulnerable populations," an administration official told CNN. (Lynne Sladky/AP via CNN)

(CNN) — The Biden administration on Monday will allocate $150 million from the American Rescue Plan to community-based health care providers across the nation to help boost their coronavirus response for underserved communities and vulnerable populations, senior White House COVID-19 response adviser Andy Slavitt said Monday.

“To get resources to health care providers serving at-risk populations and to promote equitable distribution of vaccines, today (the Department of Health and Human Services) is making $150 million available to community-based health care providers to strengthen their efforts to get shots in arms and care for patients with COVID-19,” Slavitt said at a White House COVID-19 briefing.

CNN previously reported Slavitt was expected to announce that the federal government would provide tens of millions of dollars to walk-in style clinics that aren’t in the federal government’s health center program. These are facilities that often welcome people without appointments or insurance and typically serve low-income communities.

The government refers to them as health center “look-alikes,” and wants to provide a financial boost for their COVID-19 response.

The money designated Monday will help these places ramp up vaccination efforts, provide education about COVID-19, improve infrastructure to things like computer systems and shore up their overall response in mitigating the spread of coronavirus, an administration official said, an administration official told CNN. They are directly targeting communities they consider underserved and vulnerable.

The providers must apply for the funds by May 14 and then the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will decide who is approved for funding.

The White House has continually stressed its efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in an equitable manner across the country and ensure vulnerable populations that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic have access to the vaccines as well as medical care.

Biden has vowed to ensure Black and Brown people get equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine through mobile clinics, vaccination centers and partnerships with local communities.

As part of its effort to reach underserved areas and expand points of access to the vaccine, the Biden administration has been sending COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers and to retail pharmacies.

Community health centers treat some of the most vulnerable Americans, including people experiencing homelessness, migrant workers, residents of public housing and people with limited English proficiency. About two-thirds of patients at community health centers live at or below the federal poverty line and 60% identify as racial or ethnic minorities.

The Biden administration said last month it would dedicate nearly $10 billion to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities and increase vaccine confidence across the country.

The Department of Health and Human Services will dedicate $6 billion from the COVID-19 economic relief law to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines in underserved communities and $3 billion to strengthen vaccine confidence, the White House said.

As of Monday, every person 16 years and older is now eligible to be vaccinated and Biden administration officials said they estimate that 90% of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site as a result of the expanded federal channels.

The Biden administration has ramped up efforts to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines since taking office, including boosting federal pipelines with more doses and more vaccination sites in preparation for mounting U.S. supply and the next phase of the U.S. vaccination campaign.

This story has been updated with additional information.