Whatcom County announced today it has been awarded a federal Community Development Block General Purpose Grant of $750,000 from the Washington State Department of Commerce for use towards construction of the planned Unity Care North Whatcom Health Center on Portal Way.
The Department of Commerce reported receiving more than $18 million in funding requests in 2017 but the amount available to award was under $10 million. 23 cities and counties were awarded grants. The grants are to be used to improve rural water, sewer, street and fire protection systems, support affordable housing and community planning.
Whatcom County officials said the grant money will be applied toward construction of the Unity Care Northwest’s 23,393 square-foot two-story expanded clinic in Ferndale. Construction cost has been estimated at $12 million.
Unity Care Northwest officials say their goal is to raise $3 million in order to begin construction. Including the $750,000 grant money, they report to have raised $1.1 million so far.
The current plan is to begin construction in the summer of 2018 and be open to serve patients by the summer of 2019. That plan is dependent on the continued existence of the Affordable Care Act said Unity Care Northwest officials.
Executive Director Desmond Skubi said in an email, “The loss of insurance coverage by many of the people we serve will place much greater demand on our sliding fee scale and the grants and charitable contributions required to support the sliding fee scale.”
The Unity Care NW Board of Directors had originally planned to start construction on the new clinic this summer but that was delayed given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act. Skubi said, “We don’t want to build an expanded facility if we are unable to support the expanded primary medical, dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services for which the building was designed.”
Whatcom County was also awarded a similar grant from the Department of Commerce for $500,000 that will go toward Opportunity Council’s Housing Rehabilitation Program for 21 low to middle income homes.