Our Response to COVID-19:
We know that heart and stroke patients face an increased risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19 and now more than ever, the American Heart Association is needed. I encourage you all to visit Heart.org for resources and information on the virus. In the meantime, I want to share an update on how You’re the Cure and our advocacy department have responded.
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The grassroots and advocacy arms of the American Heart Association (AHA) have jumped into action in response to the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Despite many of us being under stay at home orders in Washington D.C. and across the country, the life-saving work and priorities of the AHA must go on and we stand ready to lead the charge. Despite the virus impacting our daily routines, we have been working hand in hand with congressional leaders on recovery efforts. You’ve probably heard about the three relief packages that have been signed into law, but you may not know about AHA’s role and priorities in shaping them, and future efforts.
Please know that this list is illustrative of our efforts, and not exhaustive—there is much more we have done, and much, much more that remains to be done. We will continue to work with our country’s leaders, specifically with Congress and the administration, as they manage the pandemic response and consider future legislation to aid recovery efforts.
- Access to Care: Advocated for no cost virus testing and urged the federal government to do more to protect vital health care providers and patients with more masks, ventilators and other necessary medical equipment and devices.
- Food Security: Pushed and made it easier for schools to continue to serve meals to millions of children who rely on school foods, as well as government assistance for families in need through the SNAP and WIC programs.
- Public Health Infrastructure: Secured much needed increases in funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal agencies that are central to the pandemic response and recovery. Funds will be used to support federal, state, local and tribal health departments’ response activities, COVID-19 related research, and address shortages on critical medicines, therapies and vaccines.
- Relief for Charities: Secured federal relief for nonprofit organizations through loans and enhanced incentives for charitable giving. Nonprofits that serve America are a central pillar of the pandemic response and recovery, providing goods and services to Americans in need. As we continue to respond to the pandemic and Congress considers future legislation to aid in recovery efforts, we already know there are a few issues and areas we need to focus on. I’ll highlight a few that have taken on increased importance in the wake of the national emergency.
- Surprise Medical Billing: Already an important issue and a focus of our fall 2019 YTC on the Hill lobby day event, surprise billing is taking center stage again during the pandemic. Patients who seek treatment or are hospitalized due to COVID-19 are at an increased risk of receiving a surprise medical bill and Congress must step in to protect patients now. If you or anyone you know has received a surprise medical bill - related to COVID-19 or otherwise - please share your story here.
- Active Transportation Programs and Policies: Funding for programs and policies that help improve our nation’s infrastructure through hiking trails, walking paths, and dedicated bike lanes have always been an important to make physical activity safe and accessible for all Americans – and are even more important during the pandemic. Millions of Americans are looking for ways to get outside and be active, while following public health guidance and physical distancing. Investing in more trails and lanes is a great way to help – and will be key to economic recovery.
- Relief for Charities: As mentioned above, nonprofits are providing essential goods and services that are more important and impactful than ever during the pandemic. Charities large and small need additional support to continue their life-saving work.
- Special Open Enrollment Period: Access to quality health care is critical right now. Many Americans remain uninsured, or underinsured, and everyone should have the opportunity to enroll. Treatment and care are critically important, now and always.
- Life-Saving Biomedical Research: The COVID-19 pandemic places heart disease and stroke patients at greater risk. According to emerging data, 40 percent of hospitalized coronavirus patients have some form of cardiovascular disease and experience 2 to 3 times higher death rates. Additional support for basic and clinical research at the NIH is needed to explore how the coronavirus exposes vulnerabilities in these patients and attacks the vascular system.
- Food Security: While the second and third relief packages were a good start in ensuring Americans do not go hungry during this time of crisis, there is still much more to be done, particularly as schools – that were not meant to be emergency feeding services – are struggling to keep up with community demand and unemployment claims skyrocket.
As our response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve I will be sure to keep you informed. For ways to help, make sure to visit the YTC Action Center or contact your local grassroots staff.
Now more than ever I appreciate everything that you do for heart and stroke health. Together we will get through this and if I can be of any assistance please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Amy Shope Manzi
Director, Grassroots Advocacy