Over the past ten months, we have made tremendous progress in our effort to protect and uplift the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. Deaths have declined by nearly 90% in Black, brown, and Indigenous communities. The gap in vaccination rates between Black and Latino/Hispanic adults and white adults has closed. Nearly 100% of schools are open for in-person instruction, offering students more equitable access to academic resources and allowing parents to go back to work.
We know our work to close the gap in how communities of color experience the pandemic is not done. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing $785 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support community-based organizations building vaccine confidence across communities of color, rural areas, and low-income populations; bolster the efforts of Tribal communities leading the way in mitigating the spread of the virus; expand public health systems’ ability to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and older adults who have been among the highest risk for infection or death from COVID-19; and continue our mission to build a more diverse and sustainable public health workforce, including a new apprenticeship program that will train thousands of our COVID-19 community health workers and prepare them for long-term careers in public health. This funding builds on the significant investments we have already made in equity-focused programs and initiatives since entering office.
These investments are also directly responsive to the recommendations of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which delivered its final report to the White House Office of COVID-19 Response today. President Biden and Vice President Harris created this Task Force on their first full day in office, taking the historic and innovative step to appoint community activists, advocates, experts, and leaders who have now created a slate of recommendations that will continue to inform our public health in the years and decades to come.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s action to prioritize equity in the COVID-19 Response has the potential to be transformative for health equity in the United States. Over 80 percent of the Task Force recommendations have already been fulfilled, and the Administration is committed to embedding the Task Force’s recommendations into the historic initiatives and programs we continue to build to promote and sustain equity across the federal government.
Today’s $785 million funding announcement is a significant step towards that long-term effort. Specifically:
- Nearly $240 Million to Expand Public Health Workforce by Creating Pipeline Program for 13,000 Community Health Workers and Paraprofessionals from Underserved Communities. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will invest nearly $240 million into a new program focused on education and on-the-job training to build the pipeline of public health workers in the most underserved communities. This effort will support apprenticeship programs at over 500 health care and public health sites nationally, including emergency departments, health centers, state and local public health departments, community health centers, mobile health clinics, shelters, housing programs, faith-based organizations, and other locations where high-risk populations access care and receive services. Over the past 10 months, the Administration has made historic investments in community health workers that have engaged in critical vaccine outreach, building vaccine confidence in our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities throughout the pandemic. These individuals have been hired from the communities they serve, resulting in a diverse corps of people typically underrepresented in our public health workforce.
- $210 Million to Build Preparedness in Tribal Communities, Support School Nurses in the Bureau of Indian Education, and Expand the Public Health Workforce in the Indian Health Service and Across Indigenous Communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated preexisting inequities facing Tribal Nations. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is investing $92 million to hire school nurses that can provide critical testing, contact tracing, case management, vaccination, and overall school health support to Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) K-12 schools; $67 million to enhance public health capacity and build better emergency preparedness for IHS and Tribal Nations; $45 million to expand loan repayment and support IHS’s ability to recruit and retain highly-skilled health care professionals, in IHS, Tribal, and urban Indian health programs; and $6 million to support core surveillance and epidemiology work for American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
- $150 Million to Address the Unique Needs of People with Disabilities and Older Adults in Response and Recovery from the Virus and Improve their Health and Access to Services Moving Forward. The Administration for Community Living at HHS is investing $150 million for its disability and aging networks to increase the public health workforce with disability and aging expertise and to collaborate with public health systems to support the health and safety of people with disabilities and older adults who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19, disproportionately experience the effects of social isolation, and need services and supports to maintain independence, particularly during emergencies and disasters.
- More Than $140 Million to Continue Supporting Community-Based Organizations Leading the Way in High-Touch, Impactful Vaccine Outreach to High-Risk Communities. HRSA will award an additional $66.5 million as part of the community-based organization (CBO) vaccine outreach initiative established in May. Participating organizations report that this funding has been essential in allowing CBOs to hire local community outreach workers that educate individuals, provide resources, and address barriers to getting vaccinated in underserved communities. Applicants for this new funding will focus on serving the most vulnerable populations, including pregnant people, in key states with lower vaccination rates. HRSA will also invest another $77 million for additional CBOs to hire community workers for vaccine outreach and engage in other efforts to build vaccine confidence.
- $35 Million for CDC to Improve Diversity in the Public Health Workforce and Ensure Better Capacity to Response to the Needs of Underserved Communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investing $35 million to expand activities in recruitment and pipeline programs to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in public health workforce and increase awareness and interest in public health among underrepresented groups, including through the Science Ambassador program for middle and high-school teachers and CDC’s Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) program for undergraduate students, among others.