Underwood to Introduce Legislation to Create Jobs and Protect Families From COVID-19

January 22, 2021
Press Release
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan includes this policy, first introduced in May 2020

Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act would invest billions in public health infrastructure to recruit, train and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity in communities, like Illinois’ 14th District

WASHINGTON— Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), announced she will introduce the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act (Health Force), legislation that would create jobs and protect families from COVID-19. The Health Force would recruit, train, and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans to build public health capacity and aid in vaccine distribution in communities, including in Illinois’ 14th District. As the United States continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and works to rebuild the economy, the Health Force would support already overburdened state and local health departments, provide jobs for thousands of recently unemployed Americans, and directly support the nation’s efforts to recover from the current crises.

The policy, originally introduced in May 2020 to address the coronavirus pandemic, was referenced in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The plan calls for Congress to “invest in expanding the public health workforce to fund 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the country’s community health roles.” Along with Underwood, the legislation is led in the House by Representatives Jason Crow (CO-06), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), and Dean Phillips (MN-03). In the Senate, the legislation is led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet.

“The coronavirus pandemic has left us with a two-pronged crisis from which we must recover; we must create jobs to bring back our economy, and we must protect the health of our communities and stop the spread of the coronavirus. This requires investments to hire Americans to help increase testing capacity, conduct contact tracing, and accelerate the COVID-19 vaccination effort. I’m proud to join my House and Senate colleagues to introduce the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act, which will deliver urgently needed funding to save lives and rebuild our economy. We are facing a historic crisis and this legislation is a solution that meets the moment and lays the foundation for a healthier, more equitable future,” said Underwood.

Community-based public health jobs and resources, like those created by the Health Force, are known to improve local health outcomes, including vaccination rates. The Health Force proposal would ensure the federal government has a proactive and coordinated approach to facilitate vaccine distribution and administration — it would deliver $40 billion a year to meet the COVID-19 vaccine distribution needs and address the various public health challenges caused by the pandemic. 

Health Force is inspired by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, which similarly tapped thousands of job seekers to help the nation recover from a sharp economic downturn. Health Force will train Americans, equip them with basic public health skills, and employ them in their home communities to expand the public health workforce and meet local needs. By providing federal funding to public health departments in each county of our district, Health Force will help create quality jobs in our community while also containing the spread of the coronavirus to save lives and keep our neighbors protected. Health Force could be responsible for

  • Supporting the administration of diagnostic and serologic COVID–19 tests;
  • Supporting COVID-19 vaccination campaigns;
  • Addressing social, economic, behavioral, and preventive health needs for individuals affected by COVID-19, including those who are asked to voluntarily isolate or quarantine in their homes.
  • Sharing public health information with community members and organizations;
  • Helping community members address social, economic, behavioral health, and preventive health needs beyond those created by the pandemic, using evidence-informed models and in accordance with recognized standards;
  • Sharing community-based information with local and Tribal health departments to inform and improve health programming, especially for hard-to-reach communities.

After the current public health crisis concludes, the Health Force would be retained to continue to serve as local, trusted public health workers in their home communities, especially in historically underserved areas.

Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act has been endorsed by leading public health organizations, health care organizations, and world-renowned experts, including Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), Greater New York Hospital Association, HealthBegins, Families USA, National Coalition of STD Directors, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Peace Corps Association, Partners In Health, Resilience Force, Right to Health Action (R2H Action), Service Employees International Union, and more.

“At a time when so many Americans are under or unemployed, and suffering financially due to COVID-19, the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID Act would create much-needed jobs by employing community health frontline workers. Equally important, it will combat health inequities by recruiting individuals who are reflective of the communities they serve, thereby leveraging assets within communities hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Amber Hewitt, Director of Health Equity, Families USA.