Bustos Secures Wins for Rural Health Care, Students and Workforce Development in Appropriations Bill

With Critical Bustos Provisions Included, Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill Heads to House Floor for Final Passage

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) helped pass a robust Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) funding bill out of the House Appropriations Committee. The legislation will now head to the House floor for final passage. Congresswoman Bustos was able to secure significant wins for Illinois families – including provisions to address teacher shortages, give workers the tools they need to succeed and improve rural health care delivery.

“Illinoisans sent me here to get the job done – and this bill is an excellent example of our commitment to investing in our communities and the future of our country,” said Congresswoman Bustos, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. “Instead of giving handouts to corporate executives and special interests, we’re working for the people – taking fundamental steps to improve health care in rural America, tackle teacher shortages and bring down the cost of higher education.”

“Illinois’ rural hospitals and communities often struggle to recruit and retain health care professionals, and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) can offer a lifeline by providing loan repayment to professionals who agree to serve in certain underserved areas,” said A.J. Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. “We applaud Congresswoman Bustos for her relentless efforts to help address the pressing health care workforce challenges, and thanks to her leadership, increased funding for the NHSC is included in this bill. We also appreciate Congresswoman Bustos’ work to include language to review how the NHSC can most effectively to meet the needs of patients, providers and communities that need it most. Ultimately, we hope to see an increase in the number of rural hospitals participating in this program. IHA looks forward to partnering with Congresswoman Bustos to advance this critical legislation until it’s signed into law.”

“Disinvestment, coupled with deprofessionalization, is demoralizing educators, causing teachers and other school staff to leave the profession at the highest rate on record—nearly 300,000 each year, two-thirds before retirement age,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Thanks to Rep. Cheri Bustos, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and this Democratic appropriations bill, we are on the right path to addressing the staffing crisis in our schools, and we can look forward to promoting recruitment and retention, particularly in rural and underserved communities. As we honor teachers this Teacher Appreciation Week, we should make them a real, not rhetorical, priority.”

BACKGROUND

Prior to her election to the House, Congresswoman Bustos worked in health care administration for a decade. That’s why she’s been a champion in the fight to lower health care costs for families and improve rural health delivery. Congresswoman Bustos was able to include a $15 million increase for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) – with total funding for the program at $120 million – which helps recruit primary care providers to underserved and rural areas through scholarships and loan repayment programs. Continuing those efforts, the bill includes a directive for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to examine how it can better recruit and train primary care physicians to address shortages of providers. Additionally, Congresswoman Bustos included a provision requiring HHS to update the Appropriations Committee on strategies and best practices for coordination with schools and programs offering rural health curriculum – such as medical residencies – to improve the health care workforce in rural communities. Finally, building off her work in last year’s Farm Bill, Congresswoman Bustos included language requiring HHS to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture and its newly established Rural Health Liaison to improve health outcomes in rural America.

Congresswoman Bustos has been tirelessly working to support students and teachers – hearing firsthand about teacher shortages in communities like the Quad-Cities, Peoria and Rockford. In this bill, Congresswoman Bustos included language requiring the Department of Labor and the Department of Education to issue a report on teacher shortages and the factors contributing to challenges with teacher recruitment and retention.

The Labor-HHS bill includes $189.8 billion in funding – geared toward improving the health care law and providing Americans with quality, affordable health care; bringing down the cost of higher education; investing in our students and early childhood education; and better preparing our workforce through apprenticeships and training programs.

Other priorities of Congresswoman Bustos’ that were funded in the bill include:

RURAL HEALTH CARE – In addition to increasing funding for the National Health Service Corps, this legislation prioritizes rural health care delivery by increasing funding for telehealth programs to $28.5 million.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION – This legislation increases funding for Head Start by $1.5 billion – with its funding totaling $11.6 billion. Head Start provides comprehensive early childhood education, health and nutrition services to low-income parents and children.

HIGHER EDUCATION – This legislation stands up for students who’ve been crippled by student loan debt by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $150 per year – bringing the total to $6,345. It also urges the Department of Education to crack down on nefarious student loan servicers with a history of poor performance. Congresswoman Bustos pressed Secretary Betsy DeVos on this issue earlier this year. Finally, the bill helps students earn an affordable education by robust funding for the Federal Work Study program with $1.43 billion.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT – Congresswoman Bustos has consistently fought for affordable, accessible care – and this legislation shifts $100 million to the Affordable Care Act’s Navigators program, which helps consumers and small businesses find health care options in the marketplace.

HOME HEALTH CARE WORKERS – Home health care workers provide essential care to parents, grandparents and children – and this bill blocks the Trump Administration’s efforts that would have made it harder for these workers to pay their union dues and join a strong union.

WORKFORCE TRAINING – Congresswoman Bustos has been a strong advocate for workers – and this legislation invests $900 million in adult workforce training, $964 million in youth training and $250 million in apprenticeship programs. The bill also significantly increases funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) by $37.4 million – with total funding for CTE reaching $1.3 billion.

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES – Continuing Congresswoman Bustos’ work to protect children and families from lead poisoning, this legislation includes $40 million for the childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. It also includes $3.8 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps keep families safe and healthy by managing costs associated with home energy bills.

PUBLIC BROADCASTING – Congresswoman Bustos understands the importance of public radio and television to our communities, and this bill increases funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to a total of $495 million.

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