(HELENA) Leaders with Helena’s PureView Health Center say a federal grant that makes up a large part of their budget will continue through the spring, but they’re still raising concerns about the long-term future of that funding.
PureView executive director Jill Steeley said Friday that the grant will expire at the end of February. But she said the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the agency that administers the grant, will be able to keep providing payments through May.
“That leaves us with a few more months to not have to go into our reserves,” Steeley said.
The HRCA grant includes about $1.8 million originally approved as part of the federal Affordable Care Act – just under a third of PureView’s annual budget.
PureView is one of 17 community health centers in Montana that serve more than 100,000 patients – about one-tenth of the state’s residents. Funding for those centers became a prominent political issue this week.
The Affordable Care Act funding, about 70 percent of federal support for community health centers, expired in September. Since then, Congress has approved several short-term extensions of funding, but not a longer-term reauthorization.
Steeley said any uncertainty over this money will make it difficult for health centers to plan for the future.
“We want to keep offering services at the same level that we’ve always offered them,” she said. “We’re even expanding our behavioral health program, and it’s hard to do that when you don’t know what to expect for the future funding.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester pointed to the lack of a long-term appropriation for community health centers as one of the reasons he voted against a deal Monday to end a federal government shutdown. He called on Congress to pass a permanent budget, including health center funding, instead of continuing to operate using short-term continuing resolutions.
“As long as the government doesn’t do their job, and as long as we continue to fund government month by month or week by week, they’re going to have a very uncertain future, and at some point in time they’re going to have to pull the plug,” Tester said. “I don’t ever want to see that happen, because if it happens, they’ll go away and it will be very, very hard to get them back.”
Republican Sen. Steve Daines supported Monday’s budget agreement. Representatives from his office said Daines was strongly supportive of community health funding. They highlighted the extensions that have already been passed, and said Daines was confident ongoing funding will be part of an upcoming budget package.
The most recent continuing resolution funded the federal government through Feb. 8.