Health and Human Services

Your Quick Guide to Securing ARP Funding for Your Health GIS Strategies

Welcome to this first blog in a series focused on helping health organizations secure funding for their strategic health geographic information system (GIS) initiatives. In this installment, I would like to bring attention to and connect you to some of the significant funding resources available now. In future installments, I will provide uses cases and real-world examples from forward-thinking health organizations who are leveraging federal funding to achieve their objectives.

Federal relief funding for pandemic recovery provides health departments with a massive opportunity to invest in and advance the use of technology. During the COVID-19 response, GIS, in particular, was the technology that allowed health professionals to innovate and adapt at an amazing pace. This same technology can and does support health departments as they work to respond to new challenges, improve access to care, and enhance quality of life.

So, with the considerable influx of funds available to support public health, human services, and health care organization needs through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), are you getting yours? I hope so because there is something for every health organization to support their GIS investment.

To understand the available funding, let’s group the opportunities into three distinct buckets:

  1. Direct funding− These monies are, as titled, directly allocated to all state and local governments for a variety of health and non-health-related functions.  
  2. Funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)− These health-focused funds are awarded through the various agencies and offices of U.S. HHS.
  3. Funding from Non-Health Related Agencies− Several national U.S. agencies not formally related to health are supporting health initiatives through their ARP funds.

Below are some specifics for each of the above funding buckets and tips on how to align your programs to take advantage of each allocation.

Bucket 1: Your Guide to the Direct Funding

One of the largest allocations of ARP dollars are the State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds in the amount of $362 billion. This substantial infusion of money is already earmarked for every state and county in the country and is meant to provide relief related to the “consequences of the pandemic” (lots of flexibility here) and support work that will continue and improve COVID-19 response and recovery in an equitable way (more on that in an upcoming blog). That support can be provided by non-governmental organizations since the government is allowed to pass funds. This seems like a perfect opportunity to work collaboratively to address cross-cutting needs. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the funding objectives for this bucket of money are to:

Here are some of the funding conditions/specifics for direct funding:

Tips for investigating and pursuing direct funding:

While the last 3 subsections above overlap with funding buckets 2 and 3 below, they are nicely summarized on this NCSL page.   

Bucket 2: Your Guide to the Funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Many of you are well aware of the direct funding available above, which is great. What I’m not hearing people talk about, is the infusion of funding that’s going into existing health programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has received billions of dollars over prior funding levels to support and advance the programs of its various agencies and offices. This funding will make it to local health departments via grants. This means, to access this bucket of money, you must apply – it is not guaranteed. A few examples include investment in the CDC to improve the national data surveillance and analytics infrastructure ($8 billion), tracking vaccines and infections among Tribes as well as strengthening the IT and telehealth infrastructure of the Indian Health Service ($5.5 billion), supporting the ongoing pandemic-related work of community health centers via the HHS Secretary (7.6 billion), and stepping up efforts through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to pandemic related mental health and substance use disorders ($425 million). This is just the tip of the iceberg, and, of course, these monies can then be provided as grants to supporting public health and health care organizations.

Tips for investigating and pursuing funding from US HHS:

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to those reading this blog that health is a part of everything we do to support our communities. Many government organizations, for example, operationalize this through the ‘health in all policies’ effort. With this approach, it makes perfect sense that there would be funding opportunities available for the work of the health community that come from organizations not generally considered to be health centric. Funding under this bucket will also be allocated via grants, and you must apply to take advantage. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding food security programs and modernization of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has $10.75 billion to devote to housing and homeless assistance and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has billions to spend on bridging the digital divide with expanded broadband, a critical foundation for the expansion of tele-health programs. Funding for health is all around us.

Tips for investigating and pursuing funding from non-health related agencies:

I personally am encouraged by the national recognition that the health industry needs additional support to be able to address the critical issues of individuals and populations across our country. The ARP Act of 2021 is a good start. If you haven’t already, please explore the significant funding opportunities before you. As the world recognized, through the prevalent COVID-19 dashboards from organizations such as John Hopkins University, GIS needs to be a part of your modernization strategy to address future challenges.  If you’re not sure where to start, we would be happy to partner with you to navigate funding criteria, prepare proposals and support your location strategy. By the way, funding requests are favored when they involve collaboration with nonprofits and/or private companies like Esri.

A few more broad resources:

My next blogs in this series will share some specifics about how ARP-funded health GIS implementations can help you meet various health and equity goals. I’ll even share some examples of what others are doing with their funding to give you some ideas.

In the meantime, go get yours!

Speed Up Your Community Recovery Efforts

About the author

Dr. Este Geraghty, MD, MS, MPH, CPH, GISP, is the Chief Medical Officer at Esri where she leads strategy and messaging for the Health and Human Services sector. Dr. Geraghty has been with Esri since 2014 and has led business development and solution development in the market. During her time at Esri, Dr. Geraghty has helped organizations around the world use location intelligence to combat Zika virus, finish the fight against polio, grapple with the opioid crisis, combat homelessness, enhance health preparedness and response, inform strategic planning, optimize healthcare access, and traverse the COVID-19 pandemic while tackling inequity. Formerly the Deputy Director of the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics with the California Department of Public Health, Dr. Geraghty led the state vital records and public health informatics programs. There she engaged in statewide initiatives in meaningful use, health information exchange, open data and interoperability. While serving as an Associate Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine at the University of California at Davis she conducted research on geographic approaches to influencing health policy and advancing community development programs. In addition to her degrees in Medicine, Medical Informatics and Public Health, Dr. Geraghty is also a board-certified public health professional (CPH) and a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP).


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