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Letter to the Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, the Hon. Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House , and the Hon. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader - Gillibrand Leads Bicameral Call On Congressional Leadership To Include Health Force Proposal In Next COVID Relief Package

Letter

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

As our nation prepares its public health infrastructure for distribution and administration of safe and effective vaccines against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we write to urge Senate and House leadership to include our Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal in any upcoming coronavirus-related legislative package. Our plan, which integrates the Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act by Senator Schatz and the Coronavirus Containment Corps Act by Senator Warren, would address the dual health and economic toll of the coronavirus crisis by investing in locally-recruited, community-based health workforces. The Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal would respond to immediate pandemic-related health challenges, such as the safe and effective administering of vaccines and continued contact tracing, testing, and quarantine/isolation supports,. It would also address the alarming racial and ethnic health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic, including equitable vaccine distribution. State, Local, and Tribal public health departments need resources and coordination in order to save lives, end the pandemic, its broader social and economic consequences, and get back to life.

Every community in America is unique, and so too is each community's challenge for equitable vaccine distribution and safe, effective administration. Our Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal would provide state and local governments with flexible funding to create hundreds of thousands of jobs to prepare for vaccine distribution and administration. A successful national COVID-19 vaccination campaign will depend on robust public health infrastructure capable of keeping up with the unprecedented progress of COVID-19 vaccine development. In order to be prepared for the safe, timely distribution of vaccines, Congress must provide state and local governments with significant resources to build a community-based workforce capable of tackling the many facets of this pandemic and all future health challenges.

Public health experts and elected leaders, including the National Governors Association, have concerns that a federal vaccine distribution plan, without adequate preparation, could disproportionately affect poor and minority communities. A comprehensive approach to equitable vaccine distribution must include communities most impacted by historical harms at the earliest planning stages, and it must be engaged immediately to ensure uptake of vaccines and mitigate against exacerbating inequities. Our Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal would spur the creation of trusted community-based public health workforces similar to community health workers (CHWs), promoters, and/or peer health promoters. This locally-recruited Health Force and Resilience Force would mitigate the effects some communities have with distrust of medical and government institutions. That distrust, along with broad anti-vaccine sentiment and disinformation, require a large-scale investment in local recruiting and community engagement, which could be led in part by the Health Force and Resilience Force. Our proposal would afford local health departments the resources for planning, community mobilization, vaccine delivery, and individual and community follow up, with a focus on the most marginalized communities throughout.

The workforce built through our Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal would respond to public health and social emergencies as well as long-term public health needs across diverse communities to keep our economy open, productive, and successful. We will face future pandemics and other major health threats that harm our economy and livelihood. If we do not learn from our experiences with the coronavirus pandemic we will find ourselves closing down again as we scramble to respond to the next great national health threat.

Our Health Force and Resilience Force Proposal would make our economy resilient and prepared to withstand national challenges like an infectious disease, a biological weapon, or future unknown health threats. We strongly urge you to pass this legislation in any upcoming legislative package.


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