A Message from Our Executive Director Amanda Pears Kelly

2021 has been a monumental year. At times it’s felt as though our nation has been on a roller coaster. The Association of Clinicians for the Underserved’s (ACU) leadership and collective voice helped us to reach historic heights—more than one billion dollars in new funding for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), provided through the American Rescue Plan and ongoing federal funding. We’ve also experienced heart-wrenching lows, as more than 750,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19, and our healthcare workforce has been pushed to the brink during the pandemic.

When I think of the highest and the lowest points, there is one common factor and action that moves us forward—advocacy. As we approach the final weeks of 2021 there is much to share—and even more to do—to ensure we remain on a successful path to secure a brighter future in the days to come. I invite you to review our policy and advocacy updates and join us as we continue to advocate for the NHSC, the broader healthcare workforce, and the underserved communities and patients we serve.

Build Back Better Act Passes the House: BIG Victory for NHSC Advocacy

After weeks of negotiations, budget scoring, and uncertainties, the Build Back Better Act (BBB) was passed by the U.S. House on Friday with a vote of 220-213. As Advocates may recall, early versions of the infrastructure bill did not include funding for the National Health Service Corps, a surprising and disappointing oversight. Nevertheless, ACU’s advocacy persisted, reinforcing the vital importance of increased investment in the NHSC as well as support for other key provisions—such as funding for Health Centers, Teaching Health Centers, and the Nurse Corps.

Fortunately, when the Biden Administration released its initial BBB framework, it was clear that our advocacy was getting through, with an initial $600 million in NHSC funding. From there, Congressional leadership and committees worked to turn this framework into legislation. All the while our advocacy continued with a balance of gratitude and urgency to ensure continued investments in the NHSC and other key programs, and the results couldn’t be clearer. We are extremely pleased to share that the recently passed BBB Act included $2 billion in NHSC funding, along with $3.37 billion for the Teaching Health Centers Program, $500 million for the Nurse Corps, and $2 billion for Health Centers.

BBB now enters the Senate where negotiations will intensify and many changes to the legislation are not only likely but inevitable. However, the fact that funding for the NHSC and other key programs will start in the billions is an incredible victory and a clear indication of the power of advocacy. That said, we cannot afford to let up. The Senate needs to hear directly from Advocates about the importance of this funding, the value of the NHSC, and urgency to keep the funding intact regardless of negotiations. Look for action alerts in the days ahead and be prepared to respond swiftly to maintain key support for our priorities.

Furthermore, if the Senate can pass an updated version of BBB, it will need to go back to the House for a final vote before it can be signed into law by President Biden. Most agree that this process could run until the very last hour on Christmas Eve or even stretch into 2022. In addition to BBB, Congress will also need to contend with extending the debt limit and ongoing government funding. The “Congressional plate” will be very full, and our ongoing advocacy is ultimately what will make the difference. Be sure to ask your friends, colleagues, and family to join the ACU Advocacy Network to raise their voice in support of the NHSC and healthcare workforce and on behalf of America’s underserved populations.

VP Harris Announces Historic Funding for Healthcare Workforce – Including NHSC

Speaking of the power of advocacy, Vice President Kamala Harris recently addressed the vital need to support and diversify the healthcare workforce through historic investment in key workforce programs, specifically calling out the National Health Service Corps. Her address spotlighted the record-breaking healthcare workforce awards, equating to the largest field strength in NHSC and Nurse Corps history. Now with 22,700 doctors, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers, the funding will help diversify the nation’s healthcare workforce and bolster equitable healthcare in underserved communities now and in the future.

As Advocates will recall, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) included $800 million to fund the NHSC – yet another clear indication of the power and impact of advocacy. ACU was proud to lead advocacy efforts to secure this historic funding for the NHSC in the ARP and will continue to lead the charge on BBB and other opportunities to support and expand the healthcare workforce caring for underserved populations. In case you missed Harris’s address, you can view the recording and read the statement on our website.

NHSC Application Period is Open – All Grantees Eligible for NHSC Funding!

National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Logo

The application period for the NHSC Loan Repayment Programs is open until December 16th! Thanks to the historic ARP funding for the NHSC, virtually ALL eligible clinicians can apply and be awarded NHSC loan repayment funds! Regardless of your HPSA score, now is the time to apply and take advantage of this incredible loan repayment opportunity through the NHSC.

We can confirm that applications with HPSA scores as low as 2 were approved for funding during the last application cycle – as noted personally at ACU’s recent 2021 Conference by keynote speaker Dr. Luis Padilla, Associate Administrator at HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce! Take advantage and help us spread the word – we encourage ALL health centers and ALL eligible providers (see sidebar) to apply before the December 16th deadline.

Eligible Clinicians

  • Physicians (DO/MD)
  • Nurse Practitioners (NP)
  • Physician Assistants (PA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
  • Health Service Psychologists (HSP)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)
  • Psychiatric Nurse Specialists (PNS)
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT)
  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)
  • Dentists
  • Dental Hygienists
  • SUD Counselors
  • Pharmacists
  • Registered Nurses

Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Voter Access & Registration

In case you missed it, federal agencies put forward an action plan in response to the Biden Administrations’ Executive Order on access to voting earlier this fall. ACU has long partnered with Vot-ER and others to support civic engagement, voter registration, and more, and we have now released an official statement commending U.S. federal agencies for creating strategic plans to expand nonpartisan voter registration and engagement in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting. More than a dozen agencies announced steps they will take to respond to the Administration’s call for an “all-of-government action” to further the ability of all Americans to exercise their right to vote. While there is much work to be done, this is a positive step forward in expanding voting access and increasing civic engagement. Read the full statement on the ACU website.

As we near Thanksgiving we want to extend our gratitude to you, our incredible network of advocates and partners, for your continued dedication and tireless work to support underserved populations. Our collective voice is powerful, and our impact is clear. We can’t thank you enough for your commitment to advocacy, for giving a voice to those who far too often go without, and for supporting our shared vision to achieve health equity for all.