Membership Messages

Fahe Advocacy Update: Appropriation work begins again; O’Rourke in Wytheville; 2020 Census will have impact on funding; Federal HIV response leaves out rural areas

The Latest

  • Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke visits and listens at Fahe Member office in Wytheville,  Virginia
  • Appropriation timeline compressed as Congress returns for September; continuing resolution inevitable

Longer Term

  • 2020 census aims to count every person in America – with trillions of dollars at stake
  • A surge in HIV cases linked to opioids highlights shortcomings in the federal government’s approach to HIV prevention.

The Latest

This last week, Beto O’Rourke campaigned at Fahe Member HOPE, Inc’s Open Door Café in Wytheville,  Virginia and offered a message to rural voters. Open Door Café has hosted political candidates from both major political parties and for all levels of government, providing a community space for residents to make their voices heard. During his visit, O’Rourke promised to ensure that rural Americans are not left out of the democratic process, stating that he will “make sure we write nobody off, take no one for granted, involve every single person in this election, in this campaign and the future of this county.” Focusing on this goal of inclusion, O’Rourke challenged Democratic candidates to come listen to rural America and provide solutions to problems that plague all Americans. A key interest of Fahe is lifting up the voices of Appalachia. We encourage candidates from across the political spectrum to come listen to the concerns and hear the stories of people in Appalachia.

As Congress returns to DC this week, early news reports indicate what the sprint to the end of the fiscal year may look like. With the deadline for funding approaching at the end of the month, and the Senate yet to pass a single appropriation bill, all indications are that a continuing resolution will be needed for large portions of the government. The Senate intends to pass at least one large package, but that bill will not include the funding on which most Fahe Members rely. HUD and USDA funding will likely be a part of the continuing resolution which funds the government at a flat rate until an actual appropriation bill can be drawn up. Watch this space for more information as soon as the Senate firms up its plans.

Longer Term

Population counts from the 2020 census will be used to allocate federal funding for education, housing, transportation, and our social safety net over the next decade. Local and state governments are working to ensure all of their residents are counted – an especially thorny challenge in rural areas. An undercount in the census could cost Appalachia billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade. Communities with large numbers of people living in poverty are especially vulnerable; poor people are generally less likely to return census forms, and this will be the first time the census is administered over the internet – a change that could prove especially daunting for areas with limited internet access. State and local governments are spending millions to ensure residents complete the census, but community groups will play a crucial role in the process. There are nonprofit guides to help you get started on concrete ways to improve your community’s response rate. If we want federal investments in Appalachia to match our communities’ needs, the first step is to make sure every Appalachian is counted.

A cluster of HIV cases in Cabell County, WV, is raising concerns about outbreaks tied to opioid use. Public health experts have praised Cabell County for its aggressive HIV prevention efforts, which include testing, treatment, and needle exchange programs. But addressing social factors like homelessness and drug use requires resources and manpower many counties don’t have. In 2016, the CDC determined that 28 of West Virginia’s 55 counties were vulnerable to opioid-related HIV outbreaks. But the Trump administration’s plan to reduce HIV has focused resources and expertise on 48 counties and seven states that account for 50% of new infections. This approach focuses resources on population centers, leaving out rural counties with high infection rates – including every vulnerable county in West Virginia and East Tennessee. Fahe encourages federal decision makers to consider the data which indicates outsized impacts in opioid-affected Appalachian counties when choosing how and where to deploy resources.

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