Amid a significant public health workforce shortage during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently introduced a bipartisan bill that would reinforce and expand the number of public health professionals in America.
“Our nation’s public health workers are the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the severe shortage of these skilled professionals has taken a toll,” Sen. Collins said. “As we continue to respond to this persistent pandemic, it is imperative that we take steps to alleviate the many burdens on our public health infrastructure and support the development and expansion of this workforce so that we are better prepared for the next crisis.”
Sen. Collins and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are original cosponsors of the Strengthening the Public Health Workforce Act, S. 3506, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) to reauthorize, expand and improve the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program at the state, local and tribal levels and to support the COVID-19 response effort, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.
Specifically, S. 3506 would reauthorize the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program for three years to provide education loan repayment assistance to eligible individuals who work in a state, local or tribal public health department, the summary says.
The bill also would decrease the obligated service time period from three years to two years; expand eligibility requirements to include individuals with degrees in public health, epidemiology, data systems, data science, data analytics, informatics, or statistics; and ensure that program contracts are equitably distributed, among other provisions, according to the summary.
“Reauthorizing and strengthening the bipartisan Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment program would help attract more young people to the field, support our state and local health departments, and preserve access to critical activities like testing and contact tracing,” said Sen. Collins.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Association of County and City Officials.