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Press Releases - County Council

Council unanimously approves $3.3 million special appropriation to support African American Health Program Executive Committee’s Targeted COVID-19 Response Program

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Initiative spearheaded by Councilmembers Rice and Jawando and sponsored by full Council to help mitigate health disparities

ROCKVILLE, Md., August 4, 2020—Today the Montgomery County Council introduced and unanimously voted to approve a $3.3 million special appropriation to implement the African American Health Program (AAHP) Executive Committee program to provide a targeted response to the impact of COVID-19 on African American and Black residents.

Councilmembers Craig Rice and Will Jawando, who spearheaded this appropriation, have been working in collaboration with the AAHP Executive Committee to find policy solutions that would address the underlying conditions that are driving the case and death rates within Montgomery County’s African American and Black population. The full Council sponsored this appropriation.

“This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our world, our nation and our County. Our African American community has been devastated by the high death rates resulting from COVID-19 infection,” said Councilmember Craig Rice. “That fact, coupled with the existing health care disparities that exacerbate these health concerns, has created a true health emergency. Therefore, we must act now to provide the crucial resources, supplies and outreach to our impacted communities to address this critical need.”

“Earlier this year, I introduced a resolution declaring that racism is a public health crisis,” said Councilmember Jawando. “The disproportionate health disparities caused by systemic racism in our country have been apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with African Americans having the highest number of deaths. Across the U.S., Black people are dying at 2.5 times the rate of white people. According to the Washington Post, nearly one in three Black Americans know someone personally who has died of COVID-19.”

Councilmember Jawando further stated: “While our testing and data collection for the Black community has improved since the beginning of COVID-19, we still have far to go. The partnership with the African American Health Program will bring a much needed focus on this community to target the areas in the County with the highest rates of infection and provide comprehensive solutions to address COVID-19 testing, treatment and follow-up care.”

The African American and Black population has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 nationally and locally, with higher death rates than other demographic populations. Current County data shows a death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people in a particular demographic) of 87.3 for non-Hispanic Blacks compared to 76.6 for non-Hispanic Whites and 72.1 for the overall County population. Statewide, as of July 17, Black residents were identified as 28.7 percent of confirmed cases but 40.5 percent of confirmed deaths.

During the COVID-19 public health crisis, the AAHP Executive Committee has highlighted the fact that African American and Black residents experience worse health outcomes on average than other groups because of long-term chronic health and social disparities, which include higher rates of underlying health conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung conditions, asthma, and diabetes; and socioeconomic factors such as decreased access to health care, higher rates of poverty and homelessness, and housing instability.

The County’s Department of Health and Human Services, in addition to coordinating contact tracing efforts, will coordinate a targeted testing effort with the AAHP Executive Committee. This effort will be focused on, but not limited to, County zip codes with high numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and where African American and Black residents make up at least 20 percent of the population. A special focus will be put on the zip codes 20903, 20904 and 20906.

The testing program will include both a permanent testing site in the East County and pop-up testing in a variety of easily accessible locations. Testing availability will be responsive to transportation barriers, work schedules and family composition. Testing events will be scheduled in collaboration with organizations serving African American and Black communities. Some locations may include church parking lots and recreation centers. The testing program will be linguistically and culturally appropriate.

The funding will be used specifically in the following ways:

  • Up to $335,500 will be used for marketing and communications.
  • Up to $611,875 will be used to provide educational information that includes distribution of COVID-19 kits.
  • Up to $460,625 will be used to provide mental health supports and services.
  • Up to $1,121,084 will be used to establish and support a Black physician partnership and provide residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 with financial assistance for co-pays, deductibles and the cost of medication.
  • Up to $825,000 will be used to address Food Insecurity for African American and Black residents.

The Executive branch will pursue FEMA reimbursement for all costs related to the implementation of this component of the program, to the extent that those costs are eligible for reimbursement.

The Council staff report for this special appropriation can be viewed here.

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Release ID: 20-347
Media Contact: Cecily Thorne 240-777-7972, Kristin Trible 301-284-8617