Low-income Houston clinics to receive $ 5 million in pandemic relief loans


A $ 5 million loan fund could prove essential in saving essential services at community health clinics that serve some of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods.

The fund, launched by the Episcopal Health Foundation of Houston and the Austin Community Foundation, aims to keep medical providers afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing loans to six health systems that serve the poor. in Greater Houston. The revenues of low-income clinics nationwide have plunged an average of 60% during the pandemic, which could force some clinics to close.

Legacy Community Health, Lone Star Circle of Care, Access Health, Spring Branch Community Health Center, Avenue 360 ​​Health and Wellness, and Matagorda Episcopal Health Outreach Program will each receive between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million in financial assistance. Clinics receiving loans see a total of 280,000 patients per year.

“We rely on these community clinics to bridge the gap between health care and social services,” said Elena Marks, president of the Episcopal Health Foundation.

Clinics have cut services like dental and vision care, put staff on leave, and closed less popular places due to the pandemic. Their costs have also increased due to investments in telemedicine and personal protective equipment.

The foundations hope that by providing money to financially struggling clinics, medical providers can support a large portion of Houston’s low-income, uninsured population, largely concentrated in zip codes where the case rate of COVID-19 has skyrocketed.

“The health and economic consequences of COVID-19 have prompted the philanthropic sector to seek creative solutions that are not bound by the limitations of traditional grantmaking,” said Mike Nellis, CEO of the Austin Community Foundation, in a statement.

At Legacy Community Health, which has 34 clinics in Southeast Texas, funds could help the clinics keep their doors open for patients who cannot afford treatment elsewhere.

“We are grateful to the Episcopal Health Foundation for their continued support,” said Katy Caldwell, CEO of the clinic. “The resources will be used for operational and emerging expenses associated with COVID, such as prevention, treatment, testing and vaccine distribution. “

The foundations offered several grants during the pandemic to help nonprofits in low-income communities and black and Latino neighborhoods hit hard by the virus. In June, the Episcopal Health Foundation awarded $ 1.3 million in grants to more than 30 organizations working to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Marks, CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said the loans would provide social and financial returns to philanthropists who fund these organizations by creating a cash cycle to fund future programs to help low-income families. The loan program will likely continue after the pandemic, as it is more sustainable than trying to find and make grants from their endowment.

“This is an opportunity to give them some money to keep their business going,” Marks said, “and give them a bit of a break until they get back on their feet.”

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