WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Friday announced the largest ever investment of federal funds, both in Vermont and across the country, to bolster health care workforces in rural and underserved communities through loan repayments and scholarship programs.
The historic $1.5 billion – made possible largely by the $1 billion in supplemental funding authorized through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which was passed by the Senate and signed into law earlier this year – more than doubles the number of health care professionals around the country who will benefit from the programs.
Today, more than 22,000 participants in these programs — including nurses, doctors, and dentists — are providing health care to over 23 million people across the country who might otherwise go without the care they need. In the new year, the Biden Administration plans to make additional awards made possible by the ARP.
“We are facing an extreme shortage of doctors and nurses in this country, a crisis that is endangering the lives of our fellow Vermonters,” said Sen. Sanders. “As a result, patients suffer – and sometimes die – unable to get the care they need. We must address this crisis now before it gets any worse. In the richest country in the history of the world, no one should go without access to doctors, nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals. I am proud to say that this funding will not only benefit patients, but will make it easier for young people to choose to go into primary care – no longer being forced into medical specialties just so they can pay their student loans. If we are successful in helping Vermonters apply for this funding, I have no doubt that we will see more young people choose rewarding careers in physical, oral, and mental health care – making these desperately needed services more available throughout our state.”
Within this new investment, Sanders helped secure $800 million for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), nearly triple its original funding. More than half of NHSC members serve in community health centers, a longtime priority for Sen. Sanders. There are currently eleven community health centers across Vermont providing primary, mental, and dental care, as well as substance use disorder treatment and affordable prescription drugs to nearly one-in-three Vermonters each year – regardless of their ability to pay.
Sanders also helped to secure $200 million for the Nurse Corps, more than double its regular funding, and is fighting to secure further funding for these programs in the Build Back Better Act.
By increasing scholarship and loan repayment awards by 27 percent, this new investment – made through NHSC, the Nurse Corps, and the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment (STAR) Program – will strengthen and expand the number of health care workers in key professions including primary care, dental care, behavioral health, psychiatry, and substance use disorder treatment.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) oversees the administration of funding for these critical programs.