Congresswomen Nikema Williams and Yvette Clarke Introduce Bill for Black Churches to Address Healthcare Disparities

(WASHINGTON) Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) introduced the Health Equity Innovation Act, legislation that would provide $50 million for Black churches and faith- and community-based organizations to address healthcare disparities. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) is co-leading the introduction of the Health Equity Innovation Act. Representatives Al Green (TX-09), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Gwen Moore (WI-4) and Terri Sewell (AL-7) are co-sponsoring introduction of the Health Equity Innovation Act.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Black churches played a crucial role in providing information, tests, and vaccinations to their communities. One of the lessons Black churches learned is it shouldn’t take a pandemic to utilize the networks and trust Black churches can play a leading role in their communities to address healthcare disparities and improve health outcomes. 

The Health Equity Innovation Act would create a new grant program, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health to expand access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care, encourage innovation, and address persistent health disparities and chronic disease challenges. The grant program is worth $50 million in fiscal year 2024 and increases by $5 million each year through fiscal year 2028. 

Specifically, the Health Equity Innovation Act would fund faith- and community-based organizations to pay the costs of necessary medical services, support health care professionals, peer support specialists, community health representatives, and other professionals who support access to care, and otherwise expand access to care and carry out programs that address social determinants of health. Funds could also be used to build capacity at these organizations to improve their ability to carry out these functions.

Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) said:

“I grew up in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, so I know that churches are one of the most trusted pillars in Black communities. During the pandemic, I worked with churches in the Fifth District to get shots in arms–a lifesaving ministry of Black churches. We must build on generations of hard-earned expertise so Black churches can take a more prominent role in addressing healthcare disparities for marginalized communities.” 

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) said: 

“No one understands the needs of our communities more than those who also call them home. Under the transformative Office of Minority Health, our new grant program will support diverse Americans by empowering local and faith-based organizations on the ground with critical resources to both improve health outcomes for working families and reduce the disparities that have so often brought them needless pain. I’m proud to stand with Rep. Williams in support of this vital cause.”

The Health Equity Innovation Act is endorsed by several organizations including: the Conference of National Black Churches, Choose Healthy Life, and the Black Coalition Against COVID. 

Jacqui Burton, President of the Conference of National Black Churches said: 

“The trust, advocacy, and determination of the Black Church has been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Conference of National Black Churches and its affiliate denominations distributed more than 1 million vaccinations through our 31,000 churches thanks to the invaluable partnership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government and private partners. We applaud Congresswoman Williams for her vision and leadership and are proud and honored to support the Health Equity Innovation Act, which will break down more barriers to empower Faith- and Community-based organizations to continue to lead the work towards health equity in our communities.”

Dr. Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 and a member of Choose Healthy Life’s Medical Advisory Board said:

“The Health Equity Innovation Act of 2023 is essential for providing the critical resources that will enable Black health professionals, Black community and faith-based organizations, and fraternal and social organizations to all come together for sustained engagement to address the many health challenges that we collectively face. Our recent experience with COVID, highlights the effectiveness that has been demonstrated by Choose Healthy Life, through the integration of our network health professionals, churches, and faith-based health navigators, who successfully engaged communities in a holistic manner, often left behind by traditional healthcare services. As a consequence of our success in enhancing compliance with evidence-based best practices combined with our ability to provide direct services such as immunizations, provides confidence that these financial resources can and will be responsibly utilized. We are most grateful to Rep. Williams for her leadership in addressing health equity through this important legislation.”

Click here for the text of the Health Equity Innovation Act

CONTACT: PressGA05@mail.house.gov 

Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District on the exclusive Financial Services Committee. She is a champion of voting rights and builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement as co-chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. Congresswoman Williams is committed to closing the racial wealth gap and ensuring the promise of America for all–regardless of your ZIP code or bank account.

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