September 16, 2021

Underwood bill aims to expand public health workforce

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, along with her colleagues, introduced new legislation that aims to bolster training and jobs in the public health sector amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Force and Resilience Force Act would recruit, train and employ Americans to expand the nation’s public health workforce to respond to the pandemic, according to a news release.

Underwood, D-Naperville, introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Crow, D-Colorado, and Jimmy Panetta, D-California.

The congresswoman said the bill would not only enhance the nation’s public health infrastructure, but also provide jobs for thousands of unemployed Americans.

“We cannot reopen our country without making necessary investments to expand our testing capacity, conduct contact tracing, and protect the health and safety of our communities,” Underwood said. “We are facing a once-in-a-generation crisis, and this bill is a bold solution that rises to meet the great challenge ahead of us.”

Underwood added the bill is inspired by Great Depression-era programs that put unemployed Americans to work to help the nation recover during that economic downturn.

Workers would be responsible for contact tracing, supporting the administration of COVID-19 tests and provide support in addressing social, economic, behavioral and preventive health needs for individuals affected by the disease.

Multiple health care organizations have endorsed the bill, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.