Harder Introduces Health Care Workforce Protection Act
In response to concerns from local Community Health Centers (CHCs) regarding medical personnel layoffs and provider shortages, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) has introduced the Health Care Workforce Protection Act. The bill would provide doctors in the United States on H-1B Visas to remain here -- even if they are laid off -- until 60 days after the end of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Currently, immigrant doctors who are laid off because of budget shortfalls are required to find a new source of employment within two months or they must leave the country. Many CHCs have already been forced to lay off personnel, meaning doctors on specialty visas could be forced to leave the country even when they are most needed during this health crisis.
"We have a severe doctor shortage in the Valley and the last thing we need right now is to lose the ones we do have because the federal government hasn't updated its regulations," said Rep. Harder. "I don't care where they come from -- we need more medical personnel to care for people in the Valley."
Doctors who are forced to return to their country of origin can return to the United States only after starting the visa application process from the beginning. The H-1B Visa program, designed to allow immigrants with specialty skills to work in the United States, has also stopped expedited processing, likely meaning the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will have a backlog once the country begins to return to normal. That would mean areas like the Central Valley, which are already short on providers, would stand to lose more personnel even after the pandemic is over.
Representative Harder also recently contacted the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis to help in resolving this issue in the next aid package. He also introduced the Stopping Doctor Shortages Act, which would help retain local doctors by allowing them to access student loan forgiveness.