Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Announces MCO Trainings for Community-based Organizations

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) recently added requirements to our Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to incorporate community-based organizations into their plans to advance our health care system towards value (a concept called value-based purchasing), which emphasizes results over transactional cost.

Part of the goal is to make sure that community-based organizations (CBOs) understand these changes and can effectively partner with MCOs and providers to deliver social services. This is an opportunity to better support CBOs in delivering effective social services and providing fair financial compensation for these services. The attached document provides additional information to help you understand this initiative and why your organization should learn more about it.

DHS invites you to join us for a series of four training sessions for CBOs to better understand how to get involved, the different models for these agreements and the operational aspects involved, and the requirements for CBOs. DHS is teaming up with the Center for Evidence-Based Policy (CEBP) for the trainings and they will be provided at no cost to your organization.

Webinars have a limited capacity, and all participants are required so sign up (links below). After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. You must register for each session separately.

If you have any questions, please contact Michael Hershey at

CBO Training Session 1, in a series of Four, will give an overview of Value-based Purchasing (VBP), customized for a CBO audience, focusing on the rationale and goals of transitioning from fee-for-service to MCO/provider contracts that are part of a VBP arrangement. This session would include an overview of the benefits and challenges of these partnerships and include examples of successful CBO partnerships.

Please register for PA CBO Training: Training Session #1 on Apr 28, 2021 9:00 AM EDT at:

CBO Training Session 2 will give an overview of how CBOs can best align and adapt their governance and operations to support participation in an MCO and/or provider contract. The training would address a CBO readiness checklist that includes key areas of governance and organizational infrastructure, as well as a budget model that takes into account new MCO/provider revenue.

Please register for PA CBO Training: Training Session #2 on May 17, 2021 11:00 AM EDT at:

CBO Training Session 3 will focus on evaluation of readiness for partnerships, as well as considerations for picking an MCO or provider organization partner and negotiating an agreement. In addition to evaluating CBO readiness to enter into a contract with an MCO or provider partner, this session will address key contract terms and related considerations for CBO contracts with MCOs and providers.

Please register for PA CBO Training: Training Session #3 on May 28, 2021 11:00 AM EDT at:

CBO Training Session 4 will be a workshop-style session and we will seek to provide examples for how CBOs can plan for and implement Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) interventions that are part of a value-based purchasing arrangement between MCOs and provider organizations. The workshop will also address questions raised during the workshop session and revisit select questions from training sessions 1-3.

Please register for PA CBO Training: Training Session #4 on Jun 17, 2021 4:00 PM EDT at:

USDA to Provide Critical Nutrition Assistance to 30M+ Kids Over the Summer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits. Summer months are difficult for low-income children because they lack access to school meals that fill a nutrition gap during the school year. When school is out of session, summer feeding programs—considered a lifeline for some families—reach just a small fraction, typically less than 20%, of the number served during the school year. This summer, USDA will offer P-EBT benefits to all low-income children of all ages, helping families put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The expansion of P-EBT benefits over the summer is a first-of-its-kind, game-changing intervention to reduce child hunger in the United States,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By providing low-income families with a simple benefit over the summer months, USDA is using an evidenced-based solution to drive down hunger and ensure no child has to miss a meal.”

P-EBT was established in March 2020 to provide food dollars to families to make up for meals missed when schools have closed due to COVID-19. The program was set to expire on September 30, 2021, but through the American Rescue Plan Act, benefits are now available for the duration of the pandemic, including during the summer months.

P-EBT builds on lessons learned from USDA’s Summer EBT pilots, which began in 2011 and have proven successful at reducing severe food insecurity as well as improving the quality of children’s diets. Recent research by the Brookings Institute confirms P-EBT also has a measurable impact on food insecurity, decreasing food hardship faced by low-income children by 30% in the week following benefit issuance.

Children are eligible for this temporary nutrition benefit – loaded onto an EBT card that can then be used to purchase food – if they are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year or if they are under age six and live in a SNAP household. Families of eligible children typically receive $6.82 per child, per weekday, or roughly $375 per child over the summer months.

“Help is here for financially stressed families trying to put food on the table,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “Our nutrition assistance programs are powerful tools that are critical to America reaching a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic.”

For more on the estimated impact of this effort broken down by state, visit (PDF, 105 KB).

Some 29 million adults and as many as 12 million children haven’t always had enough to eat throughout this pandemic. Further, food insecurity has disproportionate impacts on communities of color, with more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino adults living in food insecure households compared to 1 in 9 adults overall. However, recent data from the Census Bureau shows food insecurity among adults has fallen from 14 percent to 9 percent from December 2020 to April 2021.

The announcement today comes in addition to a variety of actions taken recently by USDA to strengthen food security, drive down hunger, and put a greater emphasis on the importance of nutrition. Just recently, USDA maximized economic relief for struggling families by taking administrative action on SNAP emergency allotments by targeting an additional $1 billion per month to roughly 25 million people. The Biden-Harris Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act provides over $12 billion in new nutrition assistance to address hardship caused by the pandemic, including:

  • Extending a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits— providing over $1.1 billion per month in additional benefits for about 41 million participants—through September 2021;
  • Adding $1.1 billion in new funding for territories that operate nutrition assistance block grants—home to nearly 3 million Americans—to support those hard-hit by the pandemic;
  • To help reopen schools safely in the fall and address child food insecurity, USDA issued a broad range of flexibilities that will allow schools and childcare institutions to serve healthy meals for free to all kids in the 2021-2022 school year;
  • Funding meals for young adults experiencing homelessness through Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) emergency shelters;
  • Providing nearly $900 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), including a temporary increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers to $35 per month and an historic investment in innovation and outreach to better serve more than 6.2 million people that use WIC to support a healthy start for infants and young children.

For more information about P-EBT, please visit the P-EBT website.

Pennsylvania Governor, Chesapeake Conservancy & Partners Announce Initiative to Restore 30 Agriculturally Impaired Streams by 2030 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf marked Earth Day by joining the Chesapeake Conservancy to announce a new collaborative environmental initiative for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to restore the health of 30 agriculturally-impaired streams by 2030.

“The Pennsylvania rivers and streams that drain into the Chesapeake Bay are the backbone of many communities across the commonwealth. Restoring those rivers and streams brings back recreation opportunities like fishing and boating, and improves water quality, which helps communities downstream. This ‘30 x 30’ stream restoration effort will build on the type of work that my administration, the Chesapeake Conservancy and many others are doing every day to help Pennsylvania farmers restore streambanks, install best management practices, and continue to be stewards of the land,” Gov. Wolf said. “Restoring Pennsylvania’s waters pays dividends here in our communities and downstream, and I am proud to join this effort.”

“On behalf of the Chesapeake Conservancy and our partners, we thank Governor Wolf for his commitment to this exciting effort to restore 30 streams by 2030,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn. “Partners working from Lycoming to Lancaster County have identified 30 streams where collaborative restoration can restore stream health most quickly and remove the stream from the impaired waters list. While more resources are still needed, we are already seeing tangible results in Pennsylvania’s local streams from public and private investments. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been a valuable partner in helping to shape this initiative and ensuring monitoring is in place to evaluate success at key milestones.”

The “30 x 30” stream restoration initiative will support community-based efforts that are already underway to reduce pollution and sediment in Pennsylvania streams and provide healthy habitats for fish and wildlife, outdoor recreation, and better water quality for local communities. The effort directly supports agricultural landowners seeking to restore local streams near their land.

Many community partners have engaged in this effort, including the PA Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), seven county conservation districts, as well as the dozens of nonprofits, research institutions, and local, federal, and state agencies involved with central PA Precision Conservation Partnership, Lancaster Clean Water Partners, and the Live Stake Collaborative.

To celebrate DEP’s and strong contributions to this community-based stream restoration effort, Governor Wolf bestowed the “Champion of the Chesapeake” award on behalf of Chesapeake Conservancy to two DEP employees, Marcus Kohl and Jason Fellon.

The award, which is Chesapeake Conservancy’s signature award celebrating conservation leadership in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, recognizes Kohl and Fellon’s longtime efforts and innovative leadership to improve the quality of Pennsylvania’s environment for the benefit of the commonwealth’s people, wildlife, and habitats. The award further recognizes the outstanding contributions of DEP as a whole to improve and to protect Pennsylvania’s environment.

“Marcus and Jason are just two examples of the exemplary work that DEP staff do day in and day out. This accolade is well deserved, and the type of work they have overseen and directed will be what achieves the ’30 x 30′ milestone,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

“Marcus and Jason epitomize one of the bedrock principles of my administration: Government that works. Their dedication and collaboration have led to millions of dollars in investments into clean, healthy streams, like the Turtle Creek watershed in Union County,” Gov. Wolf said. “I’m proud to acknowledge them for their roles in projects that make Pennsylvania a better place.”

Video of the governor’s remarks are available online and for download.

ARC Seeks Input to Envision Appalachia

What are the most immediate, pandemic-related challenges in your community? What are Appalachia’s top economic opportunities? As the expert in your community, ARC needs your input to Envision Appalachia. By taking this ten-minute survey, you’ll help inform ARC’s strategic investment priorities for the next five years.

Have you already provided input? Thank you! Please help get as many Appalachians as possible to participate. Click below to share on social media or please forward this email to a friend.

USDA Rural Development Accepting Applications for Single Family Housing Direct Loans in Pennsylvania

USDA Rural Development in Pennsylvania is calling for applications for Single Family Housing Direct Loans.

Also known as the Section 502 Direct Loan Program, this program assists low and very low-income applicants obtain decent, safe and sanitary housing in eligible rural areas by providing payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability. Payment assistance is a type of subsidy that reduces the mortgage payment for a short time. The amount of assistance is determined by the adjusted family income.

In 2020, the program provided more than $17.5 million in funding for 103 rural Pennsylvania families. For questions regarding application requirements for the Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program, please contact:

Gary Tam
(717) 237-2183

Patrick Hanafin
(717) 237-2276

Megan Jaxheimer
(484) 795-7615

Effective Dec. 1, 2020, the current interest rate for Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans is 2.5 percent for low and very low-income borrowers. Applications for funding for this program are accepted year round.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports housing, infrastructure improvements, business development, high-speed internet access, and community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care. For more information, visit If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

U.S. Census Bureau Releases First 2020 Census Results

Pennsylvania Continues Modest Population Growth; Loses 1 House Seat

Pennsylvania’s resident population increased 2.4 percent since the last Decennial Census to 13,002,700 total persons, according to the official 2020 Census counts released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Commonwealth is now the fifth largest state in the nation.

Pennsylvania’s apportionment population, which includes those stationed overseas and their families, was 13,011,844 which was a 2.2% increase from Pennsylvania’s 2010 apportionment population (12,734,905). As a result, the number of legislators representing Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives will decline for the tenth straight census, declining by one seat in Congress and reducing the state’s total number to 17.

April 27, 2021 is the first release of 2020 Census data and includes only the official national and state population counts which are used to determine how many seats in the House of Representatives each state is entitled. The U.S. Constitution requires the U.S. Census Bureau to report these results to the President.

The apportionment population total, which includes U.S. Armed Forces personnel and federal civilian employees stationed outside the United States (and their dependents living with them), determines which states gain or lose representation in Congress. Texas realized the biggest increase in congressional seats, gaining two seats. A total of six states gained at least one seat, while seven states lost one or more seats.

The resident population of the United States increased to a total of 331,449,281, an increase of 7.4 percent during the last decade. This growth-rate is below the 9.7 percent increase from 2000 to 2010 and is the slowest rate since 1940. Among the states, Utah experienced the most rapid population growth over the last decade at 18.4 percent. West Virginia had the largest percentage decrease (-3.2 percent).

By September 30, 2021, the Director of the Census Bureau will, in accordance with Public Law (P.L.) 94-171, furnish the Governor and State legislative leaders with 2020 census population counts for state legislative districts, counties, municipalities, census tract, and other geographies. In addition to apportioning congressional seats and supporting each state’s redistricting process, data from the 2020 Census will influence how much state and federal funding communities receive over the course of the decade.

Access the data at:

APHA Releases Statement on Oral Health Care for Pregnant Women

The American Public Health Association (APHA) released a new policy statement regarding the importance of improving oral health care access for pregnant women. Oral health is integral to overall health and a healthy pregnancy, yet less than half of pregnant women in the United States report receiving routine dental care during pregnancy. Oral diseases during pregnancy can negatively impact birth outcomes and women’s quality of life. The policy statement describes this major public health problem, along with opposing arguments, evidence-based strategies and action steps, at federal, state, and local levels.

Click here for more information.

COVID-19 Vaccine Resources: 4/22/21 – HHS Campaigns and Initiatives

As COVID-19 vaccines continue rolling out across the country, CMS is taking action to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers and keeping you updated on the latest COVID-19 resources from HHS, CDC and CMS.

With information coming from many different sources, CMS has up-to-date resources and materials to help you share important and relevant information on the COVID-19 vaccine with the people that you serve. You can find these and more resources on the COVID-19 Partner Resources Page and the HHS COVID Education Campaign page. We look forward to partnering with you to encourage our beneficiaries to get vaccinated when they have the opportunity. For more information, visit the CMS COVID-19 Policies and Guidance page.


As of Monday, April 19, 2021, every person 16 years and older in the United States will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. You can help spread the word so every adult knows they are now eligible. Use the NEW COVID-19 Community Corps Social Media Toolkit to spread the word about expanded eligibility.

HHS Campaigns

HHS just launched a COVID-19 Public Education Campaign, We Can Do This, which is a national initiative to increase public confidence in and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures such as mask wearing and social distancing.

Campaign resources and toolkits are available to reach diverse communities. NEW toolkits are now available for different populations including:

These toolkits include helpful resources such as fact sheets, videos, posters, print ads and social media. For more information, go to the Campaign Resources and Toolkits page, and search the available resources by audience, format and language to find what you need for the people that you serve.

Share VaccineFinder: Call, text, or forward this email to people you know who are having trouble finding a vaccine in their area. Vaccination is the best tool to defeat this pandemic – access shouldn’t be a barrier. You can find the VaccineFinder here.

HHS Initiatives

April is National Minority Health Month. This year, HHS is focusing on the impacts COVID-19 is having on racial and ethnic minority and American Indian and Alaska Native communities and underscoring the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available. The theme for National Minority Health Month is #VaccineReady.

Spread the word by accessing and sharing the resources in the National Minority Health Month Toolkit, which has resources, sample social media messages, and downloadable graphics.

Visit the website (English | Spanish), sign up to receive email updates on news and activities, and follow HHS on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

For more information, please contact us:

New Hospital Rankings Assess Hospitals’ Contributions To Community Health With A Focus On Equity

Health Affairs

Authors:  Caroline F. Plott , Rachel L. J. Thornton, Irene Dankwa-Mullan, Ekta Punwani, Hema Karunakaram, Kyu Rhee, Kelly Jean Thomas Craig, and Joshua M. Sharfstein

US hospitals have some of the most highly trained practitioners, advanced medical treatments, and highest per capita health care spending in the world. Yet, people living in the US have worse health outcomes compared to most high-income nations. From 2015 to 2017, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy in the US declined for the first time in nearly a century. In addition, substantial health disparities persist along racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated and reinforced these disparities: In 2020, Black Americans’ life expectancy has been projected to decrease by three years and Hispanic Americans’ life expectancy by two years, while the country’s overall life expectancy decreased by one year compared to 2017.

This paradox is rooted in the social drivers of health. Economic, environmental, educational, and social factors impact rates of illness in the population. Solutions include investments in primary care and public health, efforts to address the social causes of disease, and a commitment to health equity, defined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as when “everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.” The role of hospitals in contributing to these solutions is evolving. In 2017, the National Academies of Medicine found that the most effective hospital contributions to the care of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations are “community informed and patient-centered systems practices” that include (1) commitment to health equity, (2) data and measurement, (3) comprehensive needs assessment, (4) collaborative partnerships, (5) care continuity, and (6) engaging patients in their care. And the call for hospital rankings to incorporate community health and equity into their assessments is growing.

Read the full article.