Congress should set aside $1 billion for community health workers as part of a broader COVID-19 spending bill, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Wednesday.
The money is meant to help local-level health care officials and bolster efforts for COVID treatment. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sought this funding in order to aid vaccine administration and aid underserved communities.
“The public health workforce is the pillar that keeps our communities safe and healthy. It’s our public health system that provides assistance in emergencies, helps people make the most of the health services available to them, and connects them to services outside of the doctor’s office, like housing and nutrition support, that play just as big of a role in their overall health,” Gillibrand said.
A public health force is needed to provide those services, she added.
"I’m calling on congressional leadership to include at least $1 billion for community health workers in any upcoming COVID-19 supplemental funding package to tackle these public health challenges from the local level," Gillibrand said.
Congress previously approved $3 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan for public health workers.
The money is also being sought as officials at the state and federal level are turning to a new phase of the COVID pandemic, relying on booster shots ahead of a potential fall surge in cases as requirements like masking on public transit are being eased.
Students and teachers are returning to classrooms this month under less stringent COVID guidelines as well, and free test kits will no longer be mailed by the federal government after funding expired.
Still, public health officials are dealing with additional public health concerns, including monkeypox and polio outbreaks in New York.