The CARES Act and Health Care: Federal Funding Authorized to Support Health Care Workforce Programs


Sections 3401-3404 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economics Security Act, more commonly known as the CARES Act, provide for federal funding to be used for health professions workforce programs, geriatrics workforce enhancement programs, and nursing workforce development. These programs are generally focused on increasing access and availability of care to underserved populations. Additionally, the programs address actual and projected shortages of health care workers and establish grants and other funding for programs that can provide training and education for health care workers to overcome these shortages.

 Section 3401: Reauthorization of health professions workforce programs

This section of the CARES Act reauthorizes health professions workforce programs by amending Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. The CARES Act provides additional funding for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 for these programs and updates additional provisions of the Public Health Service Act. In awarding grants or contracts for these programs, priority may be given to applicants that train residents in rural areas, including for Tribes or Tribal Organizations.

Section 3402: Health workforce coordination

Section 3402 of the CARES Act provides for development of a plan related to the health care workforce development programs, including education and training programs. This plan will address strengthening the health care system through use of performance measures, identification of gaps and actions to address these gaps between program outcomes and projected workforce needs, and identification of barriers to closing these gaps. To carry out these health care workforce development programs, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will coordinate with other federal agencies and departments. This coordinated effort is intended to provide an opportunity to evaluate the performance of the programs and make adjustments as identified so that the nation’s health workforce needs are being met.

Section 3403: Education and training relating to geriatrics
Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Programs

This section provides funding for grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements that will enhance the workforce of health care professionals who are trained and educated in providing care for older adults.

A Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program that is awarded funding under the CARES Act must support the training and education of health professionals in geriatrics. These programs should include education relating to:

  • Patient and family engagement
  • Integration of geriatrics with primary care and other specialty areas
  • Collaboration with community partners to address gaps in health care for older adults

The activities that a Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program may provide include:

  • Clinical training related to integrating geriatrics and primary care
  • Inter-professional training to practitioners from multiple disciplines and specialties relating to the care of older adults
  • Training on community-based programs for older adults and caregivers
  • Education on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias for families and caregivers of older adults, and various health professionals

The Secretary of Health and Human Services will provide an application process for an entity that is interested in becoming eligible to receive a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement to establish a Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program. Priority will be given to applicants that demonstrate the following:

  • Programs that coordinate with another federal or state program or another public or private entity
  • Programs or activities that are expected to substantially benefit rural or medically underserved populations of older adults or serve older adults in Indian Tribes or Tribal organizations
  • Programs that integrate geriatrics into primary care, other specialties, and existing service delivery locations
  • Programs that support the training of health professionals in geriatrics, emphasize education and engagement of family caregivers, and conduct outreach to communities with shortages of geriatric health professionals

An entity who is awarded funding to establish a Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program will be required to submit an annual report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services that details the activities conducted under the program. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will then be required to submit a report to Congress that summarizes the activities and outcomes of the programs that have been awarded a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under the CARES Act. These reports to Congress will be made publicly available.

Geriatric Academic Career Awards

To promote the career development of individuals as academic geriatrics health professionals, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish a program under the CARES Act to provide geriatric academic career awards. These awards can be applied for by an eligible entity on behalf of an eligible individual. An eligible individual is someone who is board certified or board eligible in a specified health profession and is employed in an accredited health professions school or approved graduate program. Additionally, the individual must have completed an approved fellowship program in geriatrics or completed specialty training in geriatrics, and has a junior, non-tenured faculty appointment at an accredited health professions school or graduate program in geriatrics or a geriatrics health profession.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an application process for eligible entities to apply for a geriatric academic career award on behalf of an eligible individual. These awards will be distributed equitably, to ensure geographical distribution among recipients in rural or medically underserved areas of the U.S. The amount of the award will be a minimum of $75,000 for fiscal year 2021, and will be adjusted in following years. Recipients of these awards are subject to a service requirement to provide training in clinical geriatrics, including the training of interprofessional teams of health care professionals. This training is required to constitute at least 75% of the obligations of the individual award recipient.

To fund these geriatric academic career awards and Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Programs under the CARES Act, $40,737,000 is authorized to be appropriated for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.

Section 3404: Nursing workforce development

Section 3404 of the CARES Act addresses nursing workforce development. This section amends Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act to expand support of the nursing profession and, as a result, address actual and projected nursing shortages. This support includes training and education of professional registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and advanced education nurses within community based settings and in a variety of health delivery system settings. The Secretary of Health and Human Services may also identify additional strategic goals and priorities that are aligned with nursing workforce development.

To develop the nursing workforce, public or private entities may enter into contracts for federal grants that would be intended to support a program or project related to the education and training of nursing professionals. “Authorized Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs” are clinical nurse specialist programs, which are eligible for support. These education programs meet certain criteria, such as providing registered nurses with full-time clinical nurse specialist education and have an objective that upon completion of the program, the clinical nurse specialists will be qualified to effectively provide care through the wellness and illness continuum to inpatients and outpatients experiencing acute and chronic illness.

Additional initiatives under this Section include advancement for nursing individuals including licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, certified nurse assistants, home health aides, diploma degree or associate degree nurses, and other health professionals, to become registered nurses with baccalaureate degrees or nurses with graduate nursing education. Further, development and implementation of internships, accredited fellowships, and accredited residency programs in collaboration with accredited schools of nursing may be supported to encourage the mentoring and development of specialties.

If you work in the health care industry and have questions about how the CARES Act may impact you, please contact a BrownWinick Health Care Attorney.

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