July 9, 2020
In the absence of a vaccine, the strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is prevention and early detection, quarantine, and isolation. Each element of this strategy requires education, access to testing, the ability to stay apart from others, and communication to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about contacts who may also be infected.
To date, the Department of Health and Human Services has allocated almost $1 million in federal CARES Act funding for services associated with this strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes funding for basic necessities to enable individuals to safely quarantine or isolate, such as temporary housing, food, personal protective equipment (masks and thermometers), transportation services for medical needs, and outreach and education services about COVID-19. The Department chose to work with the ten statewide Community Action Program (CAP) agencies as the fastest avenue to get funding out the door and into affected communities, and thereby ensure that individuals who need to quarantine or isolate have access to support. Roughly $595,000 has been available for services starting June 1.
Additionally, the Department is contracting 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 will, in partnership with community-based organizations, support interpretation, translation and cultural brokering services, which can include delivering culturally appropriate meals and other services in a culturally appropriate way.
In response to concerns about the adequacy and inclusiveness of the approach to date, the Department will provide at least as much funding in a second round as it has in the Catholic Charities contract. Based on what we have heard from communities and stakeholders, this second round will differ from round one in a number of ways:
- The types of services to reduce disparities in COVID-19 will be informed by a community-needs assessment. We will work with private organizations to support an assessment that is community led to identify gaps and needs of various groups related to COVID-19 as well as underlying health disparities.
- The application process for the funding will be shaped by input from a Request for Information. This will gather information on the barriers that community-based organizations have experienced with different types of funding mechanisms. It will also solicit input on elements of the contract management processes that may discourage participation by community-based organizations.
- It will focus on needs not met in the first round and that matter for recovery of communities of color, as well as address underlying causes of racial disparities in health.
During the development of this second round of funding, the Department will work with foundations and other organizations to provide technical assistance to a broad range of ethnically led community-based organizations to encourage new participants. The Department aims to issue the second round of funding as efficiently as possible while remaining responsive to the needs identified.
DHHS remains committed to promoting health equity, which began well before COVID-19 and exist well outside its boundaries. This includes tackling addressing racism’s contribution to this public health crisis. As we do so, we strive to improve engagement and inclusion of affected communities in these efforts.