U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has cosponsored legislation to create a “Health Force” — an entity to train and deploy health workers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the style of Depression-era work relief programs.
“This crisis is the greatest challenge our country has faced since World War II,” said Bennet, who proposed the idea with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “Just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration mobilized millions of Americans during one of the most trying times in our nation’s history, our new Health Force will help bolster the COVID-19 response and put Americans back to work serving their communities and their country.”
The Health Force would conduct testing and contact tracing, and eventually would provide vaccinations for the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would have responsibility for training the workers, and state and local health agencies would oversee their deployment.
However, the duties of the anticipated 1 million trainees would be broader than provision of medical services. The proposal envisions that workers would share public health information with communities, deliver food and medicine to those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions, and also be involved in hospice care.
When the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close, the Health Force would shift to providing technical assistance for health agencies around the country as they hire health workers in underserved areas. In addition to responding to future public health emergencies, Health Force members would connect people with health resources and provide senior citizens or new mothers with home health checks.
Embedded within Bennet's bill is a proposed "Resiliency Force," which would operate in a similar manner to the Health Force, but would recruit employees for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A spokesperson for Bennet said the name is not a reference to the recently established Space Force.