Stethscope on pile of US banknotes

The Biden administration announced Friday an additional $225.5 million investment in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to grow the nation’s community and public health workforce.

The funds will be awarded through 83 grants as part of the Community Health Worker Training Program that will support training and apprenticeship programs to support up to 13,000 new community healthcare workers. The goal of those workers is to connect people in underserved communities to healthcare and build trust in the healthcare system.

“Patients depend on community and public health workers for care and medical information,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “These investments will equip community and public health workers with the skill sets needed to provide effective community outreach, increase access to care, and assist individuals with critical prevention and treatment services.” 

The new funding builds on more than $1 billion that the Biden administration has already funneled into community health under ARPA. Some of the 83 communities receiving grants also got money to increase public health jobs in the previous round of funding. Chicago was among them. The city used more than $10 million in ARPA funds to hire 800 community healthcare workers, according to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

“These are not short-term jobs,” Lightfoot said during a webinar announding the funding. “By design, time after time we help facilitate making this into a real career pathway.” 

In addition to the $225.5 in grants, the Health Resources and Services Administration is also awarding nearly $41 million to 29 grantees to incentivize people to pursue training and careers in public health. HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said during the webinar the funding comes at a crucial time as the nation continues to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever had these kinds of resources to be able to dedicate training to the next generation and bring people into the healthcare workforce from the communities they serve,” Johnson asserted. “A trusted messenger can really help connect people to care.”