On January 13, Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced the Strengthening the Public Health Workforce Act (S.3506), which would provide education loan repayment to eligible individuals who work in a state, local, or tribal public health department. Under the program, an individual could receive up to $35,000 in repayment assistance for each year of service.
Strengthening and supporting the public health workforce is a key priority of NACCHO’s 2022 Federal Legislative and Policy Agenda. The public health workforce is facing a crisis that predates COVID-19 but has worsened during the pandemic response. Public health departments were hit hard by the 2008 recession and between those who planned to retire or pursue jobs in the private sector, projections suggest that even prior to the pandemic over a third of the local health department workforce might leave in coming years. A federal loan repayment program like that envisioned in the Strengthening the Public Health Workforce Act would provide an important tool for public health departments to recruit and retain top talent in the field.
Meanwhile, companion legislation in the House of Representatives, the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 3297), was approved by a voice vote in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee in November. NACCHO continues to work with lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol to move legislation establishing a Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program into law.