APHA applauds passage of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 as a step toward healing and recovery

Date: Mar 10 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media Relations 

Today, the American Public Health Association applauded the House’s final passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which now heads to President Biden for his signature.

“We heartily support this comprehensive legislation that provides a more robust federal response to the continuing challenges of an under resourced public health system, long-standing health disparities and systemic racism that have only exacerbated within the past year,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “For now, I express a temporary sigh of relief with the knowledge that help for the American people is on the way, assistance that will curb the drastic impact on our nation’s economy and our long-neglected public health infrastructure.”

Several components of The American Rescue Plan Act establish critical resources for bolstering the nation’s public health system stymied by decades of underfunding. The legislation includes $7.6 billion dedicated to hiring an expanded public health workforce of contact tracers, nurses, epidemiologists, community health workers and other essential staff to help assist in the efforts of addressing COVID-19. It also provides significant funding to boost U.S. vaccine distribution, including $7.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to plan, prepare for, distribute and monitor COVID–19 vaccines.

In addition, the bill also:

  • provides more than $50 billion for testing, contact tracing and mitigation efforts, as well as public health data, disease and activity surveillance; 
  • expands access to affordable health insurance coverage, by enhancing premium tax credits for plans in this year’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, while also assisting with COBRA premiums;
  • includes additional funding that incentivizes states to expand Medicaid coverage through the ACA if they have not done so, providing millions of uninsured low-income adults with access to quality health coverage;
  • extends the duration of increased benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program;
  • extends tax credits for paid sick leave and paid family leave;
  • provides additional funding for mental health and substance use disorder services; and
  • increases resources for housing assistance and expands unemployment benefits.

“While today’s victory brings us closer to a place of healing and recovery amid positive developments we’re now seeing in the headlines daily, our nation is still a ways off from placing the devastation of the pandemic behind us,” Benjamin said. “Our most vulnerable communities will remain in dire need of economic and public health support for the foreseeable future, and we thank those who supported this legislation, which prioritizes those needs.

“In the meantime, APHA will continue to advocate for policies that promise a more equitable and just future and a stronger and more robust public health infrastructure and workforce so that all Americans find themselves living in a nation that is healthier than it was before this crisis began.”

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The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.