Biden to Direct $7.4 Billion Toward State, Local Health Efforts

President Joe Biden will offer states $7.4 billion to recruit and hire public health workers to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and prepare for future health crises, the White House said Thursday.

The White House announced that about $4.4 billion from Biden’s American Rescue Plan, enacted in March, will allow state and local officials to hire public health specialists to work on issues such as contact tracing. Of that money, $500 million can be spent to hire school nurses, and $400 million is set aside to launch Public Health AmeriCorps.

Another $3 billion, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will go toward a new grant program to fund staff positions at health departments that lack resources to hire additional employees or even keep extra staff they hired during the pandemic.

Biden to Direct $7.4 Billion Toward State, Local Health Efforts

“What we heard repeatedly from the public health community was the importance of building for the future,” said Carole Johnson, a member of the White House Covid response team. “It is a long-term issue.”

The announcement comes as the administration looks to turn the corner on the pandemic by July and as it pushes for passage of a pair of bills in the aftermath of the crisis. The number of new daily Covid-19 cases in the U.S. continues to decline, and Biden’s team has been focused on encouraging more Americans to get vaccinated.

The funding also includes $337 million for hiring in public health laboratories, including internships for undergraduate students. The CDC will expand existing units like the Epidemic Intelligence Service, with an emphasis on diversifying the public health workforce, officials said.

Early in the pandemic, state and local officials raced to set up contact tracing to curb the outbreak, though efforts were often overwhelmed by Covid-19 caseloads and were rarely swift enough to slow the spread.

“The president has been clear that we need to lean in and be supporting the public health workforce for the future,” Johnson said.

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