Congresswoman Lois Capps announced yesterday that over $1.3 million in funding will be distributed to local community health care centers to expand care for more patients.

The grants are part of millions of dollars in recovery funding that will be dispersed to 1,128 centers nationwide to develop or maintain about 6,400 health center jobs. In the 23rd District, $961,400 will be allotted to Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, $133,000 will be distributed to the Ventura County Health Care Agency and $209,509 will be allocated to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept.

According to Capps, the money could not come at a better time.

“Across the Central and South Coasts our community health centers have been the first line of defense and support for folks hurt by this economic downturn,” Capps said in a press release. “Unfortunately, when someone loses their job and their healthcare coverage, they don’t stop getting sick. … This funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help fill the gap and ensure that folks can continue to receive healthcare while they look for work and get back on their feet.”

Grantees submitted plans detailing how funds would be used, including strategies to add providers and expand services and hours. The health centers offer preventative and primary care services to patients no matter their ability to pay; prices are set in relation to income.

In a press release, Michael Powers of the VCHCA said the money will help make sure local health centers are capable of assisting the many people who seek medical care from such facilities.

“The funding will enhance the ability of our County Health Care system to provide access to community based, preventative care to the increasing numbers of new patients coming to our system who, as a result of the economic downturn, have lost their jobs or health insurance or both,” he said.

These awards – known as Increased Demand for Services grants – are the second group of health center grants provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money is part of $338 million in recovery funds that the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services will provide to community health centers nationwide.