Vice President Harris Announces Historic Funding to Bolster Equitable Health Care During Pandemic, and Beyond

$1.5 Billion Investment in National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps Will Expand and Diversify the Health Workforce and Improve Critical Clinical Care in Underserved Communities

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris will announce a historic $1.5 billion investment to help grow and diversify the nation’s health care workforce, and bolster equitable health care in the communities that need it most during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years to come.   

These awards are supporting the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs. These programs address workforce shortages and health disparities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding for health care students and professionals, in exchange for a service commitment in hard-hit and high-risk communities.   

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, this funding will support over 22,700 providers—the largest field strength in history for these programs and a record number of skilled doctors, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers committed to working in underserved communities during a moment when we need them the most. 

More than 23.6 million patients in the U.S. receive care from National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps clinicians. During the pandemic, thousands of these health providers have served in community health centers and hospitals across the country, caring for COVID-19 patients, supporting the mental health of their communities, administering COVID-19 tests and lifesaving treatments, and putting shots in arms.

Only about 7 percent of physicians in the United States identify as Black or Hispanic/Latino despite the fact that Black and Hispanic/Latino Americans account for 31 percent of the nation’s total population. Over 25 percent of physicians serving through the National Health Service Corps identify as Black or Hispanic/Latino. The mobilization of these providers is a critical step towards addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and expanding the representation of these communities in health care professions.

Further, the United States is projected to face a shortage of almost 60,000 primary care doctors, dentists, and psychiatrists over the next decade, and needs an estimated 158,000 new nurses to graduate every year for the rest of the decade. A substantial barrier in meeting these health care needs is the student debt associated with graduate health education, which can average more than $200,000 per student and prevent students from underserved communities from even considering a career in health care professions. To further support the expansion of primary care, the Administration also plans to begin awarding $330 million in American Rescue Plan funding for Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education. This additional funding will further support the expansion of the primary care physician and dental workforce in underserved communities through community-based primary care residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine-pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, general dentistry, pediatric dentistry, or geriatrics. 

Today’s announcements directly respond to the recommendations of the Presidential COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which submitted its final report to the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator earlier this month. During the Vice President’s final year in the Senate, she introduced a bill that became a blueprint for the President’s formation of this Task Force—recognizing that the perspective of public health experts, practitioners, advocates, and activists would be critical to support any federal effort to center equity in our pandemic response.

Additionally, this funding builds on the billions of dollars in investments the Biden-Harris Administration has already awarded for equity focused programs and initiatives over the past 10 months, including $785 million the Administration announced earlier this month to continue keeping equity centered in our COVID-19 response.