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October 17, 2021

Pennsylvania offering grants to local groups seeking to address COVID-19 vaccine disparities

A new program is providing community organizations with $5 million in funding to support vaccination outreach efforts

Pennsylvania has rolled out a new program that provides grants to local organizations working to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among communities that could be more hesitant and less able to receive a vaccine. 

The COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program is offering $5 million in federal funding to support nonprofits and educational institutions across Pennsylvania with their outreach efforts to communities with lower vaccination rates. 

The program is focused specifically on communities experiencing disparities in COVID-19 vaccination, including African Americans, who have a lower vaccination rate than white residents in Pennsylvania. 

More than 4.6 million white residents are either partially or fully vaccinated in Pennsylvania, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard. About 53% of white residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and nearly 49% are fully vaccinated.

However, just over 314,000 African-American residents across the state are either partially or fully vaccinated. More than 43% of African Americans in Pennsylvania have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and less than 38% are fully vaccinated. 

Other priority groups for the program include Hispanic residents, the LGBTQ community, people experiencing homelessness and residents of rural or geographically-isolated areas. More than 331,000 Hispanic residents of Pennsylvania are partially or fully vaccinated, according to the state.

The grants, which range in value from $10,000-$100,000, can be used to support educational and outreach efforts such as the sponsorship of vaccine-related community events, equipment rentals to assist with setting up COVID-19 vaccine appointments, local media advertising purchases, creating outreach and training materials and training outreach workers and volunteers.

The funds cannot be used towards COVID-19 vaccine incentives, religious services, food and drinks, a grantee's payroll and paying off existing debt.

The grants are available to nonprofits, such as faith-based organizations, and child care and educational institutions, including K-12 schools and colleges. Groups will be evaluated based upon factors such as geographical priorities, regional impact, vulnerable populations outreach and partnerships.

Eligible organizations can submit grant applications through Nov. 1. More grants may be provided if funding is still available following the first round of applicants.

“There are many trusted grassroots organizations that are using their established relationships in our communities to raise awareness, reduce hesitancy and address barriers to vaccine access," Gov. Tom Wolf said. "This grant program will put money and resources into the hands of the best people to do this work.” 

The rollout of the state's latest effort to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates comes as 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated. When children ages 12-17 are factored in, 64% of the state's eligible population is partially vaccinated and 58% is fully vaccinated. More than 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Pennsylvania so far.

“Getting every eligible Pennsylvanian vaccinated is our goal," Wolf said. "That’s what we need to do to end this pandemic and innovative programs like this one will help us get there."

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