Harris announces $1.5B to fight shortage of doctors in underserved communities

Vice President Harris on Monday announced that the Biden administration would invest $1.5 billion from the coronavirus relief law into supporting the U.S. health care workforce with an eye toward underserved communities.

The investment is designed to address the shortage of doctors, nurses and behavioral health providers in minority communities, rural areas and other underserved communities by providing additional funding for programs that address health workforce shortages.

“These awards are supporting the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs,” the White House said in an announcement. “These programs address workforce shortages and health disparities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding for health care students and professionals, in exchange for a service commitment in hard-hit and high-risk communities.”

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, this funding will support over 22,700 providers—the largest field strength in history for these programs and a record number of skilled doctors, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers committed to working in underserved communities during a moment when we need them the most,” the announcement continued.

The White House said that the investments are a response to recommendations of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which submitted a final report on Nov. 10.

“Health disparities existed long before this virus reached our shores. Health disparities stem from broader, systemic inequities,” Harris said at an event later Monday. “Our nation must invest in a healthcare workforce that looks like America and provide access to equitable healthcare for all Americans.”

On Monday, Harris also announced plans to start awarding $330 million in funding from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which he signed into law in March, to the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education to help expand the number of primary care physicians and dentists in underserved communities.

Harris formally announced the new investments during a speech alongside Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Luis Padilla, who is the associate administrator for health workforce at the Health Resources and Services Administration and the director of the National Health Service Corps.

The announcement comes after administration officials announced earlier this month that they would direct $785 million to support organizations building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and diversify the health workforce to combat the coronavirus in communities of color, rural areas, low-income populations and those with disabilities.

—Updated at 4:26 p.m.

Tags Covid relief Health care Joe Biden pandemic aid Vivek Murthy

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