Biden Signs American Rescue Plan Act – Providing Critical Investments in PA Education
Following congressional approval, President Biden has signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. This package is the new administration’s first major legislative accomplishment and the latest in a series of federal laws designed to provide needed relief from the impact of COVID-19. Thanks to the continuous advocacy of the PA education community over the past year, the package includes significant new funding to support PA programs, faculty, and students.
Following the last COVID-19 response law enacted in December, the American Rescue Plan Act includes priority provisions for PAEA that were not included in prior COVID-19 response legislation. Specifically, the law makes targeted investments in health workforce development by providing $800 million in one-time funding for the National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs, over twice the typical annual funding level. In another victory, the law also provides new flexibilities to address restricted clinical training capacity by allowing federally qualified health centers to use a portion of the additional $7.6 billion in emergency aid included in the package to support workforce development activities.
The law also seeks to address rising rates of burnout and mental health conditions among providers exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, the package appropriates $80 million for a new grant opportunity for health professions programs, among other entities, to support training activities in evidence-based strategies to reduce suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among providers.
In addition to aid targeted to support the health workforce, the package also provides nearly $40 billion in aid to institutions of higher education to be administered via the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) first established by the CARES Act in March 2020. This supplemental aid builds upon over $35 billion provided by Congress over the course of 2020 to provide assistance to students and universities forced to adapt to distance learning throughout the course of the pandemic.
As Congress continues to consider measures to advance pandemic recovery efforts, the Government Relations team will continue to advocate on behalf of faculty and students. Members with questions about the American Rescue Plan Act or PAEA’s advocacy efforts surrounding COVID-19 are invited to contact tsmith@PAEAonline.org.