White House unveils plan to spend $7B to hire public health workers

The White House announced Thursday that it is providing $7.4 billion of funding from the pandemic relief measure passed earlier this year to hire and train public health workers to respond to COVID-19 and future crises.

The funding includes $3.4 billion for “overstretched public health departments” in states and localities to hire additional staff who can work on vaccination outreach, testing, contact tracing and other tasks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and AmeriCorps will team up to launch a Public Health AmeriCorps, with $400 million in funding “to recruit and build a new workforce ready to respond to the public health needs of the nation,” the White House said.

At least $500 million will go toward hiring school nurses who can help in the COVID-19 vaccination effort for younger people. The CDC on Wednesday cleared the way for adolescents aged 12-15 to get vaccinated, and approval for younger children could come down the line.

A final $3 billion will focus on longer-term funding to “modernize the public health workforce” with a new grant program focused on helping public health departments beyond the current pandemic.

The funding is part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed in March.

“The funding announced today will allow the United States to expand its public health workforce, creating tens of thousands of jobs to support vaccinations, testing, contact tracing, and community outreach, and strengthen America’s future public health infrastructure,” the White House said.

Local public health officials have long said that they are underfunded and overstretched, and have warned of a boom-and-bust cycle in which resources are not maintained once the attention from one public health scare passes.

Last week, the White House also announced the release of $250 million for “community outreach workers” to help get people vaccinated, part of the push from Biden to get 70 percent of adults to have at least one shot by July 4.

Tags COVID-19 Joe Biden Pandemic Public health vaccinations

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