117th CONGRESS
2d Session
S. 3506


To strengthen the public health workforce loan repayment program, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

January 13 (legislative day, January 10), 2022

Ms. Smith (for herself, Ms. Collins, Mr. Booker, and Ms. Murkowski) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions


A BILL

To strengthen the public health workforce loan repayment program, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the    Strengthening the Public Health Workforce Act   .

SEC. 2. Public health workforce loan repayment program.

Section 776 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 295f   1) is amended   

(1) in subsection (a)   

(A) by striking    supply of    and inserting    supply of, and encourage recruitment and retention of,    and

(B) by striking    Federal,   

(2) in subsection (b)   

(A) by amending paragraph (1)(A) to read as follows:

   (1) (A) (i) be accepted for enrollment, or be enrolled, as a student in an accredited institution of higher education or school of public health in the final semester (or equivalent) of a program leading to a certificate or degree, including a master   s or doctoral degree, in public health, epidemiology, laboratory sciences, data systems, data science, data analytics, informatics, statistics, or other subject matter related to public health; and

   (ii) be employed by or have accepted employment with a State, local, or Tribal public health agency, or a related training fellowship at such State, local, or Tribal public health agency, as recognized by the Secretary, to commence upon graduation; or    and

(B) in paragraph (1)(B)   

(i) in clause (i)   

(I) by striking    accredited educational institution in a State or territory    and inserting    accredited institution of higher education or school of public health    and

(II) by striking    a public health or health professions degree or certificate    and inserting    a certificate or degree, including a master   s or doctoral degree, in public health, epidemiology, laboratory sciences, data systems, data science, data analytics, informatics, statistics, or other subject matter related to public health    and

(ii) in clause (ii)   

(I) by striking    Federal,    and

(II) by striking    fellowship,    and inserting    fellowship at such State, local, or Tribal public health agency,   

(3) in subsection (c)(2)   

(A) by striking    Federal,    and

(B) by striking    equal to the greater of       and all that follows through the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting    of at least 2 consecutive years;   

(4) in subsection (d)   

(A) by amending paragraph (1) to read as follows:

   (1) IN GENERAL.   A loan repayment provided for an individual under a written contract under the Program shall consist of payment, in accordance with paragraph (2), for the individual toward the outstanding principal and interest on education loans incurred by the individual in the pursuit of the relevant degree or certificate described in subsection (b)(1) in accordance with the terms of the contract.    and

(B) in paragraph (2)   

(i) by striking    For each year    and inserting the following:

   (A) IN GENERAL.   For each year   

(ii) by striking    $35,000    and inserting    $50,000   

(iii) by striking    $105,000    and inserting    $150,000    and

(iv) by adding at the end the following:

   (B) CONSIDERATIONS.   The Secretary may take action in making awards under this section to ensure that   

   (i) an appropriate proportion of contracts are awarded to individuals who are eligible to participate in the Program pursuant to subsection (b)(1)(A); and

   (ii) contracts awarded under this section are equitably distributed among   

   (I) the geographical regions of the United States;

   (II) local, State, and Tribal public health departments; and

   (III) such public health departments under subclause (II) serving rural and urban areas.   

(5) in subsection (e), by striking    receiving a degree or certificate from a health professions or other related school    and inserting    with a contract to serve under subsection (c)   

(6) in subsection (f), by adding at the end the following:    In the event that a participant fails to either begin or complete the obligated service requirement of the loan repayment contract under this section, the Secretary may waive or suspend either the unfulfilled service or the assessed damages as provided for under section 338E(d), as appropriate.   

(7) by redesignating subsection (g) as subsection (h);

(8) by inserting after subsection (f) the following:

   (g) Eligible loans.   The loans eligible for repayment under this section are each of the following:

   (1) Any loan for education or training for employment by a health department.

   (2) Any loan under part E of title VIII (relating to nursing student loans).

   (3) Any Federal Direct Stafford Loan, Federal Direct PLUS Loan, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, or Federal Direct Consolidation Loan (as such terms are used in section 455 of the Higher Education Act of 1965).

   (4) Any Federal Perkins Loan under part E of title I of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

   (5) Any other Federal loan, as the Secretary determines appropriate.   

(9) in subsection (h), as so redesignated, by striking    $195,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, and such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2011 through 2015    and inserting    such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2023 through 2025    and

(10) by striking    tribal    each place such term appears and inserting    Tribal   .

SEC. 3. GAO study on public health workforce.

(a) In general.   Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall   

(1) conduct an evaluation of what is known about the public health workforce in the United States during the COVID   19 pandemic, which shall address   

(A) existing gaps in the Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health workforce, including positions that may be required to prevent, prepare for, and respond to, a public health emergency such as COVID   19;

(B) challenges associated with the hiring, recruitment, and retention of the Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health workforce; and

(C) recommended steps to improve hiring, recruitment, and retention of the public health workforce; and

(2) submit to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives a report on such review.