Rosen Helps Introduce Legislation to Expand Health Workforce During COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), announced her original co-sponsorship of the Health Force and Resilience Force Act of 2020, legislation which would recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to expand our nation’s public health workforce in response to COVID-19.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis, and we must rise to the occasion by doing everything in our power to ensure our nation has the public health workforce it needs to combat this pandemic,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation would recruit, train, and employ Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and make long-term investments in our nation’s public health workforce by hiring hundreds of thousands of people to help carry out testing, contact tracing, and other public health-related services. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure Nevada has the tools, resources, and funding it needs to fight this pandemic and get people back into the workforce.”

BACKGROUND: The Health Force is inspired by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, which similarly tapped the unemployed to help the nation recover from a sharp economic downturn. The Health Force would create a federally-supported and locally-managed program to train and deploy essential public and community health frontline workers, who could conduct testing, contact tracing, or eventual vaccine administration. These positions would complement America’s highly trained and skilled medical professionals already fighting on the front lines. The workforce would be trained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and managed by state and local public health agencies across the country.

The Health Force would be responsible for:

  • Conducting contact tracing;
  • Administering COVID-19 tests, including antibody tests;
  • Providing COVID-19 vaccinations (when available);
  • Sharing COVID-19 public health messages with community members, including debunking myths and misperceptions;
  • Providing data entry in support of epidemiological surveillance and to meet broader health information system requirements;
  • Providing community-based and home-based services, including food and medical supply delivery to elderly and immunocompromised individuals;
  • Supporting palliative care teams; and
  • Providing other public health-related services, as needed.

The Health Force will be a new component of the CDC Public Health Emergency Preparation (PHEP) which includes 65 jurisdictions across all 50 states, territories, and tribal lands. The CDC will develop and implement Health Force training packages, while state, local, territorial, and tribal funding recipients will hire, supervise, and retain Force members using new grant or cooperative agreement funding provided through PHEP and/or Public Health Crisis Response (PHCR). States, localities, territories, and tribal entity funding recipients will actively recruit and manage Force members. Recruitment will reach out to low-income, minority, and historically marginalized populations.

After the current public health crisis concludes, the Health Force would provide grant funding and technical assistance to state and local health departments to hire and retain members to serve as health extension workers (HEWs) among vulnerable populations, in underserved areas, and in future public health emergencies. These activities could include sharing public health messages with community members, providing home-based check-ins for seniors and new mothers and infants, providing vaccination schedule reminders for parents of children, connecting community members with health-related services (e.g. SNAP), and more.