Congress has been busy on the fourth COVID-19 response package, which has begun to take shape in the past few weeks. There have been 493 bills introduced in the 116th Congress regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which address different issues and present possible solutions. In times like these, Members of Congress introduce single-issue bills to assist them in advocating for the inclusion of that legislative language in one of the larger packages meant to address the current climate. How to best support our essential health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a priority for AOTA. Two options gaining popularity with Congress and advocates are providing hazard pay and/or student loan forgiveness to these health care workers.
The first policy option is providing federally mandated supplemental hazard pay for essential health care workers.
Hazard Pay for the Frontlines during Health Emergencies Act (H.R. 6484), is a proposal put forward by Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-02) & Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-05). It would provide federally mandated hazard pay for frontline workers including health care workers. Originally the bill did not include occupational therapy practitioners. Through outreach and advocacy from AOTA and coalition partners, Reps Neguse and Horn sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking for inclusion of occupational therapy practitioners in “any upcoming relief packages.” Reps Neguse and Horn also noted specifically that “… such legislation should include physical therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and home care workers.”
The language of the Hazard Pay for the Frontlines During Health Emergencies Act was included in the larger HEROES Act awaiting action in the Senate. More information on the Heroes Act can be found at the bottom of this blog.In order to show support for the language of the Hazard Pay for the Frontlines During Health Emergencies Act, please consider writing a letter to your legislators asking them to co-sponsor this legislation.
Student Loan Forgiveness
The second option Congress is considering is providing these health care workers with federally funded student loan forgiveness.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act
(H.R. 6720). This bill would forgive part or all of eligible federal or private student loans for frontline health care workers. Occupational therapy practitioners would be eligible for this should the legislation become law.Please consider asking your legislators to co-sponsor the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act using AOTA’s Legislative Action Center today!
AOTA has lobbied Congress directly, and as part of multiple coalition efforts, to ensure frontline health care provider support is included in the final version of the next response package Congress passes.
Next Steps for Advocates
Advocates (AOTA members and nonmembers) are encouraged to contact their legislators using AOTA’s Legislative Action Center. Contact your Legislators on the Hazard Pay for the Frontlines During Health Emergencies ActContact your Legislators on the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act
AOTA will continue to advocate for student loan relief, for both those who have graduated and those whose studies have been disrupted due to COVID-19. AOTA is working for the inclusion of occupational therapy in any legislation affecting frontline workers in every conversation we have with members of Congress and their staff. AOTA’s Federal Affairs Department is constantly engaged on this and many other issues for the benefit of AOTA members and non-members alike.
AOTA’s Federal Affairs Department has also set up an engagement called “Write Your Own Letter.”
Using this engagement, advocates are able to contact their legislators on any issue that matters to them.
Larger novel coronavirus bills in the order in which they were introduced/acted upon:
#PublicAffairs #FederalAffairs #Publicaffairsbreakingnews #advocacy #Coronavirus #COVID-19 #StudentLoanForgiveness #HazardPay
- Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 6074; signed into law on March 6, 2020)
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201; signed into law on March 18, 2020)
- Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748; signed into Law on March 27, 2020)
- Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solution (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800; Passed the House on May 15 2020; awaits action in the Senate)