April 14, 2020

How CDFIs Can Support Community Health Now

Even in the best of times, access to health care and basic financial services is essential to creating more equitable communities.   

In underserved and underinvested areas — where financial resources are already limited — crises such as COVID-19 pose added threat to health and financial well-being. 

Below are ways that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can blunt the pandemic’s devastating effects and support immediate and long-term investments. 


Provide short-term financial relief to borrowers  

In this unprecedented moment, we encourage CDFIs to join us in providing short-term relief to current borrowers, including deferring principal payments.  

Our priority in these next few weeks is clear: support borrowers in creating short- and long-term financial plans and identifying any relevant government or private loan or grant relief programs.    


Establish immediate and continuous federal funding for community health centers 

Community health centers (CHCs) provide primary care to 29 million people nationwide, almost 70 percent of whom live in poverty. These centers play an especially critical role during the pandemic, as highlighted in a recent NPR/Kaiser Health feature story. 

Right away, we must support primary care associations and others to acquire and distribute personal protective equipment for CHC staff.

Advocating for enhanced reimbursement for telemedicine is also critical: Depending on the payer, CHCs may receive reduced telehealth reimbursement, compared with their usual prospective payments for in-person encounters.

Primary care providers depend on every dollar to continue their essential programs. Despite the recent stimulus package passed by Congress, payments to CHCs are projected to run out in about 30 days. Furloughs and layoffs could severely damage a decades-old safety net system, one traditionally known for its bipartisan support.  

It is imperative to support policies that ensure a steady flow of federal grant funding to CHCs, enabling them to serve their communities.    

See PCDC’s policy priorities to support CHCs.  


Protect the integrity of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)  

CDFIs rely on the CRA to encourage banks to make credit and capital available to underinvested communities  

Proposed changes to the CRA’s framework would threaten these partnerships, when many communities will be reeling from the pandemic. 

Now is the time to make powerful activities such as community-based health care projects — which are complex, longer-term, or not maximally profitable — more attractive to banks, not less 

Any CRA changes must help CDFIs meet urgent credit needs, particularly in the wake of crisis. 


Encourage participation in the 2020 census  

Demographic data collected through the census helps decide where to direct attention and resources, such as the $1.5 trillion allocated to hundreds of financial assistance programs in 2017.  

Nearly all these programs benefit the low-income communities served by CDFIs — areas deeply affected by COVID-19. 

Census data also helps dictate where health centers are locatedwho represents those communities, and how much public policy support residents receive 

Most households have begun receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond online, by phone, or by mail. We urge CDFIs to use their communication networks to encourage full participation.  

PCDC and other CDFIs hold tremendous power: providing capital, advocacy, research, and expertise to develop and strengthen access to health care, healthy foods, housing, and other vital needs. How we respond now to the pandemic can affect its impact.