Washington – This week, Congresswoman Hayes introduced the Reducing COVID-19 Disparities by Investing in Public Health Act (H.R.6638). This bill will reduce persistent racial health disparities that have long existed – and have only been exacerbated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Reducing COVID-19 Disparities by Investing in Public Health Act will double the federal investment in the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Fund at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to $2.4 billion. It would also double funding for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Offices of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“This crisis has only underscored and exacerbated existing inequities and disparities in our health care system – and revealed that we need to counteract attacks by investing in public health,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “My bill would increase funding for a critical health program that helps to reduce risk factors for all chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, which have served as risk factors for COVID-19 hospitalizations. It would take meaningful steps to mitigate the development of chronic disease and help this country combat racial health disparities that have led to disproportionate hospitalization rates for people of color. At this unprecedented time, we need to speak up for our most vulnerable communities.”

Specifically, H.R. 6638 would double funding into minority health programs at all branches of HHS, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the CDC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. These and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in America. Specifically, chronic diseases are responsible for 7 in 10 deaths each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, people with serious heart conditions, people who are immunocompromised – sometimes because of cancer or HIV / AIDS, people with diabetes, people with liver disease, people with severe obesity, or people with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis. Individuals in low income communities and people of color are more likely to have many of the chronic health conditions that have been identified as risk factors for complications from COVID-19.

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget proposed to cut the CDC by $23 billion over the next decade. Past budgets by this administration have also slashed publish health funding, including zeroing out the Public Health Preparedness and Response account, cutting the Immunization and Respiratory Diseases program, and gutting the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion account by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have endorsed H.R. 6638. Text of the bill can be found here.

Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year.

Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District.