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Federal COVID Funding ends, local health officials discuss consequences

Federal COVID Funding ends, local health officials discuss consequences
Posted at 5:30 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 20:30:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Congress has yet to pass a new COVID-19 funding bill. As a result, federal funds for COVID relief expired on Tuesday. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was unclear how much funding Pima County would receive for COVID related services. Despite the uncertainty, the county pushed forward.

“What was decided was that we would go ahead and figure out how to assemble those services and resources that were needed by Pima County residents, and figure out the payment mechanism after the fact,” said Dr. Francisco García, Pima County Chief Medical Officer.

Once again, COVID funding is uncertain, since federal funding ended on Tuesday. But Dr. García says they'll follow the same plan they did before.

“Continue to do the right thing, and we will figure out how to work with the federal government to get reimbursed for those pieces of it that are eligible,” Dr. García said.

Without congressional funding, White House officials say the united states will soon run out of booster doses, testing kits, and monoclonal antibody treatments. And by April, health providers wont be reimbursed for testing, treating, or vaccinating the uninsured.

“The pandemic has disproportionately affected people already at high risk of poor health outcomes, so it’s going to take a long time to help create that health equity,” said Dr. Joy Mockbee, Medical Director at El Rio, Cherrybell Campus.

Throughout the pandemic, El Rio Health has provided free vaccination and testing sites for low-income and homeless populations. Dr. Joy Mockbee says this outreach will continue, but now there are a couple of administrative hurdles.

“There might be a few additional administrative things we have to go through to get people signed up and on different types of programs but doing so will allow them to continue those benefits,” Dr. Mockbee said.

El Rio’s eligibility team will work with patients to get them on a health plan or to offer them a sliding fee scale. If all else fails, they wont turn away someone in need of a COVID test or a vaccine. This is all subject to change depending on congressional action in the coming months.