On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced funds will be made available to promote racial and geographic equity in the COVID-19 response. DHS was awarded $27 million by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to combat inequities related to COVID-19 infection, illness, and death, including $9 million dedicated to rural communities. In a separate appropriation, an additional $13 million in funding has been set aside to continue the Vaccine Community Outreach grant program, which funds organizations across Wisconsin to increase vaccinations by serving as trusted messengers within their communities, build vaccine confidence, and reduce barriers that hinder vaccine access for marginalized or underserved populations. 

“Communities of color are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, which has exacerbated existing health disparities in Wisconsin,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “Racism and systemic barriers, including lack of access to quality health care, job opportunities, housing, and transportation, have made these Wisconsinites more vulnerable to COVID-19. With these investments in our communities, we can support a just recovery, and address the broader structures and conditions that promote health so that everyone in our state has an opportunity to thrive.”

As part of this initiative, DHS announces “Mobilizing Communities for a Just Response” — a grant program that seeks to support Wisconsin’s local and tribal health departments and nonprofits in addressing health inequities and the broader consequences of the COVID-19-pandemic. Agencies and organizations located within rural areas or serving rural communities to advance equity and remove barriers to health are encouraged to apply. With $3 million to distribute to organizations, Mobilizing Communities for a Just Response seeks to decrease rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 among underserved communities in Wisconsin. The Request for Applications (RFA) is available. To learn more about this $27 million grant and for additional funding opportunities, visit our Health Disparities Grant webpage.

“I’m proud [that] our vaccine program has been a national leader in getting available shots in arms and that we’ve now vaccinated more than 3 million Wisconsinites,” said Governor Evers. “Getting the vaccine is an essential part of our state’s economic recovery, and it’s also key to our efforts to make sure everyone in our communities bounce (sic) back, especially folks who’ve been disproportionately affected by this pandemic.”

Earlier this year, DHS awarded $6.2 million in “Vaccine Community Outreach” grants to one hundred organizations across Wisconsin. Organizations ranged from community-based organizations to local and tribal health departments, school districts, and health systems. The application period for new applicants is October 12 to November 14. Organizations that engage in work to reduce socioeconomic or health inequities across Wisconsin are encouraged to apply. Applicants that demonstrate a commitment to addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and minimizing accessibility issues will be prioritized. Current or previous grant recipients will have until October 25 to reapply.

Both of these grants are funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit:

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