U.S. Senator Bob Casey says he will introduce the legislation he says would act as a modern G.I. Bill for the country’s health care workers.
The Pandemic Responders Service Award Act would award millions of U.S. health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic access to money to pay for student loans, additional education or for savings for the future.
“This is a piece of legislation that should thank appropriately health care workers who have answered the call of their country during this terrible pandemic,” said Casey, D-Pa., during a press conference. “I think most would agree that if there is a front line, these are the workers that are there.”
Casey’s bill would give eligible workers the equivalent of four years of in-state tuition at a public university, which is currently $39,880, over a four year period.
The awards would not include additional costs such as room and board.
Those eligible for the award would include people employed by emergency medical services; workers involved in health care and patient care in hospitals including janitorial, transport, laundry and food services; home health care workers; residential care workers; and behavioral health workers.
Recipients of the award could use the funds to pay off existing student loans and seek further education such as apprenticeship training, certification programs or associate, bachelor’s or graduate programs. The funds could also be used as savings for the future for workers to fund their own businesses, purchase a home or save for their children’s future, Casey said.
Casey and his team modeled the bill off of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I. Bill. The bill was originally signed into law by President Roosevelt to reward the country’s World War II veterans and help them enroll into universities.
“These front line health care workers are soldiers on a battlefield, it’s just a different kind of battlefield,” Casey said.
The Senator estimates that if the bill were to pass, it could benefit “tens of millions” of health care workers across the country. Casey and his team have yet to announce an estimated cost for the bill, but plan to provide a ballpark estimation when the bill is introduced this week.
“When you are fighting a war and finding the impact of that war, we can’t be penny pinchers,” he said. “We are going to work to make this part of the next piece of major legislation or get it passed in some other legislation. As we introduce it, we will be looking for both sides of the aisle in senate.”