The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that $50 million in grants will be made available for the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteer program, the largest infusion of funding that has ever been designated for the program.
The newly announced grant funding for the MRC comes from the American Rescue Plan, the pandemic-era economic stimulus packaged signed into law by President Biden in 2021.
The MRC is operated by the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and currently has more than 200,000 volunteer members operating across roughly 800 units. MRC volunteers are often deployed in response to disasters and emergencies to aid in public health.
The idea for the program was first proposed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with physicians calling for an organized system of medical volunteers to assist in response to emergencies.
MRC volunteers were mobilized throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and Ohio lawmakers have recently called for MRC assistance in addressing the toxic train derailment in East Palestine.
“MRC units across the country have been integral in helping their local communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said in a statement provided to The Hill.
“Many units took on new missions, conducted new training, and continue to adapt plans to meet their communities’ evolving needs,” said O’Connell. “The funding notice ASPR is issuing today will ultimately help the network continue to grow as it has over the past two decades.”
According to MRC Program Director Dustun Ashton estimated, the value of MRC’s volunteer work during the pandemic is estimated to be valued at $131 million.
MRC units are often sponsored by local health departments. The grant funding announced by HHS is available to all states, territories, tribes, public/private partnerships and other public entities. According to an administration official, grant applicants will be able to specify what they wish to use the grant funding for.
Applicants have until April 30 to submit their grant proposals.