Since the Policy and Issues forum in March, NACHC and health center advocates have been diligently working on all fronts to educate Congress on – and push for a solution to – the looming expiration, at the end of FY2015, of dedicated funding streams supporting the operations of Community Health Centers, scholarships and loan repayments through the National Health Service Corps, and primary care training in Teaching Health Centers. The potential expiration of funding for these programs to the future of Health Centers and those we serve.
Together we have undertaken many different efforts to eventually lead us to what we hope will be a successful resolution to this threat to the stability of the program. NACHC staff and advocates have held hundreds of meetings with Members of Congress at home and in Washington, DC to discuss the funding cliff. As part of the Access is the Answer Campaign, advocates have gathered petitions and support letters from local elected officials to send to their Members of Congress. Congressional Champions in both the House and Senate have led letters with bipartisan majorities to leadership requesting Congress work together in a bipartisan manner to fix the funding cliff. NACHC is now leading a sign on letter for national groups urging Congress to fix the cliff when members return after the election – to date, more than 70 groups have signed on. These efforts have helped us “raise the drumbeat” and demonstrate we have the support to the Leadership of Congress to fix the cliff.
As many of you have heard, we are now entering the next phase in this effort: we are advocating that Congress fix the cliff during the lame duck session of when members return after the elections. The timing of this push is based on what is happening in Congress. While many things depend on the upcoming election, we are hearing that the lame duck has the potential to be an opportunity to resolve some lingering issues Congress wants to get off of their docket before the new Congress comes into session. If the opportunity presents itself, we want a cliff fix to be one of the items on the list of priorities for Congress to resolve, especially since there are a limited number of opportunities next year.
However, in order to be on the list of priorities, we need to make a bigger, louder push that starts now. There is a limited opportunity to weigh in when members return as the session could move very quickly and the agenda is being set as we speak. We don’t want to miss this key time now when staff is taking into consideration potential issues for the lame duck. Over these next few weeks, it will be incredibly important to demonstrate the importance of getting this done.
We’ve heard from Members of Congress that despite our efforts, they have not felt the sense of urgency from back home. To that end, we will also be facilitating a massive email push – ahead of the elections – for our entire advocacy network to send emails to their Members of Congress requesting they fix the cliff. The goal of this effort will be to flood their mail reports so that staff, as well as the members, take notice. In tandem with that effort, we will be asking some of our advocates to hold targeted meetings with key Member of Congress back home over the next few weeks to reinforce the message to fix the cliff. There is also a sign-on letter for national organizations to join to show their support – to date, more than 70 have signed on. The lame duck session will be the final opportunity this year for us to fix the cliff. We do not want this issue to go down to the wire and we will need all of your support to help us achieve our goal. Please join us as we make this push to fix the cliff in the lame duck session of Congress.