Grassroots health groups that played an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US say they are not being included in government funding, CNN reported on Monday.
These groups say they're especially disappointed because the federal government relied on them to encourage vaccination and other mitigation measures during the pandemic.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is anticipated to announce the recipients of nearly $4 billion in grants to improve public health infrastructure this week.
The funding will help deal with a "historic underinvestment in communities that are economically or socially marginalized, rural communities and communities with people from racial and ethnic minority groups", the CDC said.
The money is intended to support government health departments, according to the CDC. Community leaders in these underserved areas say although that is important, they also need funding because they have been working for many years on health promotion in these communities and know them well.
In September, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration announced 83 grants totaling more than $225 million for its Community Health Worker Training Program for underserved communities. The HRSA grants were given mainly to government health departments, universities and other large organizations. Grassroots health promotion groups whose members work and live in these communities were awarded a relatively small section of the funding.
"A lot of times, the funding streams have names that say 'community', 'community-based organizations' or 'community health workers', but the funding often goes to states and doesn't end up helping at a grassroots level," executive director of the National Association of Community Health Workers Denise Smith was quoted as saying by CNN.
Community groups are often asked to carry out health promotion without government funding, said Venus Ginés, president of Día de la Mujer Latina, a health advocacy group in Texas.
Ginés received a letter from US President Joe Biden in October which thanked her for the work the group did during the pandemic.
But Ginés was rejected this fall when she applied for HRSA's $225 million program.
Tonya Roberson, president of the National Community-Based Organization Network, said government agencies have also asked her for help without payment.
Community groups often get asked to do unpaid work, said Maria Lemus, executive director of Visión y Compromiso, a group representing health promoters across the nation.