Winding Waters receives windfall of COVID-19 cash

ENTERPRISE – The federal American Rescue Plan provided a major financial boost for community health centers. Winding Waters Medical Clinic in Enterprise was among those who received help.

More than $84 million was allocated to health centers in Oregon through the ARP, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office announced last month, with Winding Waters receiving more than $1.2 million.

Nic Powers, CEO of Winding Waters, said he was aware of the money set apart for health centers in the $1.9 trillion bill, and expected Winding Waters would be able to apply for a grant.

“I absolutely was shocked by the amount,” he said of the $1,210,625 awarded to WWMC. “It was unexpected.”

The money was dispersed to 30 centers in Oregon, with dollar amounts ranging from about $671,000 to nearly $11 million. The money, which will be available once WWMC budgets the funds approved by the Bureau of Primary Health Care, is a one-time, two-year award.

“Over the next two years, this one-time funding will go toward our COVID response efforts, staff development and the tools, equipment and spaces we need,” Powers said.

He noted that part of the use for the money will be expansion of services in Joseph and Wallowa, but the uses can be varied, and are more than just COVID response.

Community needs, Powers said, will be heavily in mind as staff and the volunteer board of directors formulate a budget, which it has to turn in by May 31 – 60 days after WWMC was made aware of the award.

That includes “what is needed out there (in the community), and how do we do things that are promoting our partnerships across the community. We don’t want to duplicate services” with other providers, Powers said. “We are working hard to have a thoughtful process, and we have a deadline.”

The situation is unique, he said, in that the money has been awarded, but the budget must be provided before it can be used.

“We certainly don’t have it in the bank,” he said. “I can see it in our federal grant management system. I can see it’s there, and once our budget is approved we can start spending the funds.”

Powers said with the money, the clinic needs “to do things that invest in our community.”

“It’s a lot that’s coming rather quickly and a little bit out of the blue. We are working hard to budget wisely,” he said. “(The mindset is) both recover from the pandemic and make sure we are here for the long term.”