CHICAGO, IL — JULY 22, 2022 — Thirteen African American-led community-based organizations (of 15 possible as the maximum) in Illinois have been awarded grants ranging up to $500,000+ from the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Act (AAHARA). As defined by the AAHARA, African-American/Black-led CBOs are defined as those which have a Board comprised of 51%+ African-Americans. However, it is notable that several CBO grantees which were notified that they are receiving grants, still do not have contracts from IDPH, nor are they being funded at the level for which they applied. Subsequently, there are unallocated dollars still remaining in the $15M funded to the AAHARA 2022-2024 budget, and even though IDPH has directed that program implementation begin on January 1, 2022, it has yet to issue many of the necessary contracts to the CBO grantees.
Recommendations by BLACHE (Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity) and other AA-led CBOS have included that IDPH allocate remaining funds to:
Granting those CBOs which applied the dollar amount they requested or
An accelerated hiring and training initiative for new staff needed by all CBO grantees.
Other considerations, include allowing AA-led CBOS which previously did not apply, or applied and were denied (there are at least 3), to submit RFPs to the NOFO.
In June 2021, the Illinois legislative assembly passed a bill (led by State Rep. Lamont R. Robinson and Senator Kimberly Lightford, Senator Jacqueline Collins, Senator Greg Harris, and State Rep. Lashawn Ford) increasing funding of the African American HIV/AIDS Response Act from $1.2M to $15M. The funding was allocated from the State's COVID response funding — not the Illinois general fund nor from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH.)
Several executive directors of African American led CBOS (most of which were past funding recipients), met with then-IDPH Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike in July 2021 and other IDPH leadership, to address the history of mishandling by IDPH of the AAHARA, including:
pigeon-holing testing criteria so that cisgender men and women were not included as risk categories, and agencies were funded to test only African Americans who "self-identified" as transgender, MSMs and having "multiple sex partners."
compensating agencies for tests, but NOT for outreach staff to recruit and conduct testing
issuance of NOFOS up to six months late (October), though the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) Code stipulated that AAHARA NOFOs were to be issued in March-April of the fiscal year preceding funding, so that the process of awarding grants (issuance of award notifications, award letters, contacts) would be timely for July 1 grant program start (Illinois fiscal)
Consequently, late issuance of contracts leading to actual start dates as much as 6 and in some years 8 months LATE)
Extremely late Reimbursements (6months+)
Dr. Ezike directed her staff — particularly her then-chief-of-staff, Justin DeWitt and HIV/AIDS Leadership staff (Andrea Perez, Griselle Torres, Laura Vaught and others), to work on getting the NOFO for 2022-24 AAHARA funding, to address the needs/issues of CBOs and to issue it before "the Fall." AND to address IDPH HIV/AIDS STAFF SHORTAGE, so that there would be more expedient management of AAHARA funding and support to grantees. Though most of the aforementioned issues with previous AAHARA NOFOs were addressed, it wasn't posted on E-grams until after 6:00pm on Friday December 3, 2021 (5 months later!). And, it is NOT part of the FY 2022, but instead to be part of a calendar year funding period, with all $15M dollars to be spent over a 3-year period, ending December 31, 2024. IN ADDITION, unlike any NOFO since its inception in 2006, the new AAHARA NOFO had not one, but SIX categories, requiring SIX plans and budgets, and logic models. And yet, this NOFO due date was January 3, 2022. No consideration was made for office closings on both Christmas and New Year's (not only of applicants, but community partners and even that of IDPH), NOR the fact that many/most CBOS were operating at limited capacity and staffing issues due to the explosion of COVID-variant rates in December.
BLACHE, immediately contacted more than 15 African American led CBOs across the state to notify them of the IDPH e-Grams posting of the AAHARA NOFO as MOST were unaware. In addition, BLACHE requested that IDPH extend the deadline to January 15, 2022 due to the aforementioned reasons. The extension was denied. Still 10 Black-led CBOS attempted to apply. NO…all of them did not make the deadline, nor were all applicants awarded. The majority of those who received notification of awards, were issued contracts in April 2022 — but were directed by IDPH to "back-date" work to January 2022. A few STILL HAVE NOT received contracts from IDPH! And, how could they have hired and trained staff, and started the work specified in the RFPs they submitted with no award notification or contracts?!
Finally, on March 1, 2022, after continued work by BLACHE with Congressional representatives and those in the office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, IDPH finally reopened the AAHARA NOFO — though it still had the same start and end date (January 3, 2022 -December 31, 2024). AND applicants which received notification of awards, STILL DO HAVE NOT BEEN ISSUED CONTRACTS so they cannot hire or train additional staff needed/specified for program execution.
Consider, that same two IDPH staff persons were managing the $1.2M in AAHARA funding, with one contract and budget for 10 agencies at $100K each. They are also now responsible for managing $15M AAHARA funding to 13 agencies with 2-5 grants and budgets each. New IDPH leadership has been appointed and hired this year, but what about the number of staff assigned to administrate/manage the AAHARA funding, including budget reviews, award letter and contract issuance, monthly reports, processing of reimbursements, site visits and more?
BLACHE is continuing its efforts to bring action, including IDPH adherence to policies so that Black-led CBOs are able to receive funding, hire and train staff, and implement their programs and services to help reduce the inequitable spread and impact of HIV/AIDS among Illinois' African American residents.
BLACHE is also addressing the continued inequity of funding relative to IDPH's HIV/AIDS budget of $103M, of which only $1.7M has been granted to African American CBOs.
BLACHE will be addressing the need for the Illinois Legislature to include funding for the AAHARA in the State's 2024 general fund — as the current funding ends December 31, 2024 and only exists because of emergency COVID funding to the State from the Federal government.
For additional information on BLACHE, please visit: