The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has spent nearly $480 million in federal aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large portion of the aid provided by Congress to states in March 2020 was spent on coronavirus testing and contact tracing in North Carolina. About $6.8 million of the funding is available to continue the public health services in 2021, officials said.
“Although much of the attention has understandably moved to vaccines, we are still very much in the midst of this pandemic,” Susan Gale Perry, NCDHHS chief deputy secretary, said Tuesday during a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and North Carolina Health Choice meeting.
“We are still very much in the midst of delivering on some of the bread-and-butter strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 that we need to continue until we get vaccinations at a rate that would allow us not to do so,” Perry said.
The General Assembly allocated the funds to NCDHHS from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. North Carolina received more than $4 billion in direct aid for its Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). States had until the end of 2020 to spend the funding, but federal lawmakers extended the deadline to Dec. 31, 2021.
NCDHHS has spent $125 million from the CRF in administering tests and tracking COVID-19 cases statewide. Local health departments set up 750 testing sites and provided 7 million COVID-19 tests. NCDHHS also has provided 500,000 rapid antigen tests, launched an exposure notification app and hired 1,560 contact tracers.
The agency's second-largest expense was mental health and crisis services. Officials said they employed more than 400 community health workers that helped 180,000 North Carolinians with medical, behavioral and social services. NCDHHS spent $75 million on its behavioral health response efforts, according to its most recent spending projections.
In recent months, North Carolina has spent additional CRF funding on isolation support services for COVID-19 patients and homelessness prevention and to support historically marginalized communities and offset costs for Medicaid dental providers.
The state delivered more than 26,000 meals, relief payments or medical care to 5,500 households who needed to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19, officials said.
NCDHHS plans to reallocate the remaining funding for child and adult protective services and prescription assistance programs.
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