Crow, Burgess, Eshoo, and Guthrie Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Establish the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program

May 18, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO) introduced the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act, alongside Reps. Michael C. Burgess, M.D (R-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY). This bipartisan legislation would establish the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program to promote the recruitment of public health professionals at local, state, and tribal public health agencies. 

To be eligible for the program, individuals must be in their final year of pursuing a public health or health professions degree or certificate or have graduated within the past 10 years and go on to work for a local, state, or tribal public health agency. The bill also stipulates that individuals accepted into the program must sign a service commitment for at least three years.

Crow first introduced the legislation in April of last year. The idea for the bill was proposed by Dr. John Douglas, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department in Colorado, who has previously joined Crow for COVID-19 telephone town halls. 

“The last year has shown us how essential our healthcare workers really are,” said Rep. Crow. “This bill helps support and grow our public health workforce and ensures we are prepared for future pandemics or public health crises. There’s no shortage of individuals in this country who are looking to serve. This bipartisan legislation will help us recruit and retain the talented public health professionals who keep our communities safe.” 

“This past year, the nation watched our public health workforce go above and beyond to defeat this coronavirus. It is still critical as we are starting to emerge from this pandemic that it has the support it needs on the front lines. Funding the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program provides vital resources to grow and strengthen our public health workforce at the local, state, and tribal levels. This bill will enable these public health departments to enhance their workforce, thereby improving our nation’s overall preparedness and response capabilities to current and future public health emergencies. I hope all Members will join in supporting this legislation,” said Rep. Burgess. 

“For decades our nation’s public health departments have been underfunded and understaffed. This neglect was on full display last year when public health departments were unable to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This bipartisan bill will address these shortcomings by recruiting and hiring more public health workers through student loan repayment. I’m proud to join Reps. Crow, Guthrie, and Burgess to support the next generation of public health leaders,” said Rep. Eshoo. 

“A strong public health infrastructure starts with the health professionals at its core. As Congress works to further support our public health infrastructure, this commonsense bill will help attract and retain individuals, who are in the process of completing or have recently completed their public health degrees and certificates, to serve at local, state, and tribal public health agencies. I’m proud to join Representatives Crow, Burgess, and Eshoo in introducing the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act to grow and strengthen our public health workforce,” said Rep. Guthrie.

“For many students, it isn’t economically feasible for them to enter into public service, especially given the high cost of many health care and medical programs. I’m grateful to Congressman Crow for pursuing this idea and making it into a reality,” said Dr. John Douglas, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “Not only will it help encourage the next generation of public health leaders, but we can better increase our nation’s preparedness for problems such as the current coronavirus pandemic and the unpredictable new public health problems that are almost certain to come.”

“Health department staff have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response for 18 months -- keeping people safe, interpreting public health guidance, and distributing life-saving vaccines. And they are doing so despite workforce cuts and tight budgets that make it difficult to recruit and retain the key talent needed to keep our communities healthy and safe. A federal Public Health Loan Repayment program is an important investment in strengthening the health department workforce across the country. We thank Representatives Crow, Guthrie, Eshoo, and Burgess for taking this important first step to set up a system to help recruit and retain talented professionals to these critical jobs to strengthen health department capacity and protect the public now and into the future,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, MBA, CEO, National Association of County and City Health Officials. 

You can find bill text here

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