VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Thursday afternoon that they had awarded the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health more than $30.6 million to address COVID-19-related health disparities.

The funding is part of a national $2.25 billion investment seeking to advance health equity. It is the CDC’s largest investment to date to improve health equity.

About $12.1 million will be used in rural communities in Virginia. Most of the grant, about $14.2 million, will be distributed through “mini-grant” programs in communities. About $27.3 million goes to the state, and $3.3 million goes to the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health.

According to a Virginia Department of Health news release, the VDH got the funds under a four-prong strategy that includes infrastructure, data collection, prevention and control, and working with local partners such as historically black colleges and universities and faith communities.

“These grants demonstrate our steadfast commitment to keeping equity at the center of everything we do,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. “They are an important step in our unwavering efforts to strengthen our communities’ readiness for public health emergencies—and to helping everyone in America have equal opportunities for health.”

According to the CDC, the money has three goals:

  1. Reduce COVID-19-related health disparities,
  2. Improve and increase testing and contact tracing among populations that are at higher risk and are underserved, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities,
  3. Improve state, local, US territorial, and freely associated state health department capacity and services to prevent and control COVID-19 infection.

The funding was made available through four categories: state awards, local health departments serving a county or city with a population of greater than or equal to 2 million, local health departments serving a city with a population of 400,000 or more but less than 2 million, and U.S. territories and freely associated states.

Virginia Beach is the only city in the state that that falls into the category for local health departments that serve a city with a population of 400,000 or more but less than 2 million.

“The pandemic has laid bare longstanding health inequities, and health departments are on the front line of efforts to address those inequities,” said José T. Montero, M.D., Director of CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support. “These grants will provide these health departments with much needed support to address disparities in communities that need it most.”