Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in August that the federal government would award 67 community health center programs in 23 US states and Puerto Rico with grants totaling $28.8 million. REUTERS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday announced the availability of two funding opportunities for community health centers to help build, expand and improve across the country to provide needed care to low-income Americans.

The department said approximately $700 million, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, will be shelled out to support renovation and construction projects, boosting centers’ ability to care for additional patients and creating jobs in those communities.

“For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment, said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Community health centers are geared toward local employment and economic growth in many under-served and low-income communities.

These funds will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country,” Sebelius added.

In 2010, the centers employed more than 131,000 staff and new funds made available today will help create thousands of jobs nationwide.

“Strengthening the foundation of community health centers is vital if we are to continue providing high-quality care for those who need it most,” said HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N.

One funding opportunity will provide approximately $600 million to existing health centers across the country for longer-term projects to expand their facilities, hire more employees and serve more patients.

The second funding opportunity emphasizes shorter-term projects and will provide approximately $100 million to existing health centers to address immediate facility needs.

Currently, more than 8,100 service delivery sites around the country deliver care to nearly 20 million patients regardless of their ability to pay.

This comes after HHS awarded 67 community health center programs in 23 US states and Puerto Rico with grants, totaling $28.8 million.

Those funds, also made available by the Affordable Care Act, would help establish new health service delivery sites to care for an additional 286,000 patients, according to health officials.

“We are making an investment in the health of people and the health of our communities,” said Secretary Sebelius.

“These awards demonstrate a commitment to improving and expanding access to quality health care for local communities. We are removing barriers that stand in the way of affordable and accessible primary health services,” she added.

In October 2010, the Obama administration allocated the first $727 million to help fix up community health centers across the country. The money was to go to 143 centers.