DHHS Issues $1 Million in COVID-19 Health Equity Improvement Initiative Awards

September 4, 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has awarded $1 million to 24 organizations in Maine under the COVID-19 Health Equity Improvement Initiative, with the goal of supporting culturally-tailored prevention, education and social support activities.

In addition to providing emergency support to disproportionately impacted communities, this initiative will help the Department identify interventions that can have a lasting impact on reducing systemic disparities.

DHHS made financial awards this week to 24 community-based organizations (CBOs) serving diverse populations throughout the state. Some organizations have previously contracted with the State, while others are new partners. The activities that will be funded include hiring of staff, such as community health workers, distribution of masks and hand sanitizer, meal delivery, and culturally appropriate informational and outreach campaigns, among others.

The application process for this funding was shaped by input from community organizations and leaders through stakeholder meetings as well as a Request for Information, which gathered information on the barriers that community-based organizations have experienced with different types of funding mechanisms. The Department also provided technical assistance to a broad range of ethnically led community-based organizations to encourage new participants.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) led or run by members of their community are well positioned to reduce the disproportionate spread and impact of COVID-19 among racial and ethnic groups in Maine. Such organizations can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate education on how to protect individuals and families from the disease and prevent the spread of the disease, such as using face coverings. Through these awards, they can promote an understanding of the value of early detection, testing, quarantine or isolation as warranted, and treatment; provide or facilitate connection with the types of services and supports needed to maintain quarantine, isolation, or treatment; and help people in their communities affected by COVID-19 to recover.

These 24 organizations will be reimbursed for costs associated with their public health education, prevention, and social support activities during the funding period from August 1 through November 15, 2020. DHHS will continue to seek out opportunities for additional support, such as through federal funding, beyond this date.

This $1 million in funding is in addition to related initiatives the Department is undertaking to support people affected by COVID-19. This includes partnering with ten statewide Community Action Program (CAP) agencies to assist individuals who need to quarantine or isolate ($600,000), with Wabanaki Public Health to support Maine Tribal members with COVID-19 ($40,000), and Catholic Charities of Maine to provide supports for racial and ethnic minorities and assist in contact tracing efforts ($320,000) throughout the state. Catholic Charities, in partnership with community-based organizations, is supporting interpretation, translation and cultural brokering services.

DHHS remains committed to promoting health equity, which began well before COVID-19 and exist well outside its boundaries.