STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— For the first time in a decade, congress is providing federal dollars directly to community projects across the nation.

Visiting the dentist can be scary to some kids, but Star Community Health’s dental program takes the fear out of the mix with its fleet of dental vans.

“Being able to be outside of the schools and offering this service to the kids and them willing to see the dentist, it’s just great,” said Marilyn Santiago, a dental van manager for Star Community Health.

Santiago manages the dental vans that visit schools in Lehigh and Northampton counties, providing services to students during school and missing less class time.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced $400,000 in federal funding for the dental program, expanding its dental vans now to students in Monroe County.

“If we’re going to out-compete any country in the world, whether it’s China or any other country, we have to have a quality workforce, and to have a quality workforce, you have to have your workforce educated. And you can’t have 34 million hours of school missed and say we’re going to out-compete the world,” explained Sen. Casey.

Star Community Health executive director Mark Roberts said parents face obstacles such as lack of insurance or overall dental knowledge, and this program fulfills that need.

“There are over 34 million school hours lost to kids between the ages of 5 and 17 just simply due to oral health pain and emergent care,” said Roberts.

Averaging around 16 students receiving oral care a day, Santiago said she always remembers the story of a student football player who couldn’t practice due to a toothache.

“You are running, it’s extremely cold, but because it’s during the cold season, so we were able to bring him in and help him with that pain. He was able to get back on the field, he was able to focus in school,” Santiago said.

The van that will help kids in Monroe County is expected to begin providing service next year.

If students do not have insurance and still have a dental need, Star Community Health said it has programs to help and educate their families.