PAWTUCKET — From individuals and small business owners to leaders in the non-profit community, over 100 people gathered at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center on Tuesday for a federal grant workshop on health care funding hosted by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
The focus of the workshop was to provide information about the competitive funding opportunities just made available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the new health reform law.
With the recent ending of the traditional federal appropriations process, Cicilline organized the workshop to help local agencies identify competitive federal funding opportunities that benefit the state.
The workshop outlined the many health and human services-related grants that are available from HHS, the federal department that administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined.
“Recent federal budget cuts, including the ending of earmarks, have made it more difficult for many programs in Rhode Island to do their critical work, all the while the need for health and human services has increased due to our fragile economy,” said Cicilline.
“I am working to secure alternative federal funding opportunities to benefit Rhode Island, including through the new health reform law that will enable our state to become a leader in the country in the implementation of the law.”
The topic is obviously of interest to many, as the number of attendees was double the amount of invitations that had been sent out, according to Cicilline spokeswoman Raymonde Charles. Cicilline said he is planning to hold more such workshops within the First Congressional District.
Cicilline noted that the success for many in the room depends on grant funding for programs, personnel and infrastructure. “I'm here to connect you with funding opportunities that are available even at a time when federal funding has changed dramatically,” he said.
Cicilline spoke of the progress that has been made since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, including increased Medicare health services and preventative visits for those who couldn't previously afford them, efforts to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole” for prescription coverage, and vital insurance reforms to cover children with pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26 and providing increased financial support for Rhode Island's community health centers.
The congressman noted, however, that there are those currently in leadership in Congress who have tried to repeal the reforms achieved in the Affordable Care Act and said the effects of any such repeal “would be severe in our state,” particularly in the current economy.
Cicilline added that Rhode Island has received nearly $40 million in grant money as a result of the Affordable Care Act. However, he noted, “We have come a very long way since these health care reforms were enacted, but we have a long way to go.”
Christie Hager, Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Secretary, gave an overview of the types of resources that are available under the Affordable Care Act. “Whether you are here today representing a community-based organization, a non-profit or a small business, there's a lot here for you,” she said.
Hager also noted that the regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is located in Boston and works closely with the Rhode Island congressional delegation, the governor, lieutenant governor, and other government leaders on health and human services funding issues. “We can help,” she said. She added that Cicilline was among those “committed to our efforts on sustaining the momentum of health care reforms.”
Besides Hager, representatives from several other HHS agencies discussed the details of the new health reform law and the funding opportunities it presents for Rhode Island health care agencies to continue serving Rhode Islanders. Representatives from four Health and Human Services agencies, including the Administration for Children and Families, the Administration on Aging, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration also presented their agencies' specific grant opportunities.
According to a Cicilline spokesperson, any local government officials or non-profit organizers who missed the federal grants workshop can still learn how to secure alternative federal funding focused on the health care sector by contacting his office at 202-225-4911.