Gillibrand urges Congress to get $1 billion in funding for community health workers

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has called on Congress to provide at least $1 billion in funding for community health workers under the upcoming COVID-19 supplemental funding package.

The money sought by Gillibrand would be used to address labor shortages she attributed to the coronavirus and monkeypox health crises. She said the pressures on healthcare workers have pushed many into retirement and into hospitals that can offer better wages.

“Overworked and understaffed, our public health workforce is exhausted,” Gillibrand said. “States are scrambling to find enough qualified healthcare workers to meet existing needs.”

Gillibrand cited a recent visit to a network of hospitals that had more than 40 vacancies, which they were unable to fill. While previous federal coronavirus relief funds have eased their burden, Gillibrand said the understaffing is proof that health care systems have not yet fully recovered from the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“Years of local budget cuts and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have weakened local hospital systems in New York City,” she said. But with “health force money,” New York City was able to secure $35 million to train 500 entry-level health care workers.

“I was fortunate enough to meet some of these workers several months ago,” Gillibrand said. “And it was clear to me that there is so much need to provide more support, not only to emergency rooms and hospitals, but also to these workers, to their communities and to public health systems.”

Originally reported by Emilie Bishop for WSHU Public Radio

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