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AACN's Washington Weekly

Published December 23, 2020

Congress Passes Year-End FY 2021 Appropriations and COVID-19 Relief Package

On December 21, Congress passed H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a joint stimulus and spending package that included approximately $900 billion in COVID-19 relief efforts and $1.4 trillion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations. This year-end legislation included several AACN priorities such as:

FY 2021 Appropriation Provisions:

  • $264.472 million for the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs, a $4.5 million increase over FY 2020 levels;
  • $174.957 million for the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), a $5.844 million increase;
  • $42.934 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and provides guidance that, “encourages NIH to support research to advance robotic and automation technologies to help nurses complete remote physical tasks for patients affected by infectious diseases and to limit caregivers' exposure and/or reduce burden on the healthcare system.”
  • $2.5 billion for higher education programs; and
  • $24.5 billion for Student Financial Assistance, which includes a $6,495 maximum for Pell Grants, an increase of $150 above 2020 enacted levels.

COVID-19 Relief Provisions:

  • $22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund;
  • Approximately $7 billion to increase broadband access, telehealth, distance learning, and other broadband infrastructure needs, especially in rural and underserved areas;
  • $1.25 billion to NIH for research and clinical trials related to the long-term impact of COVID-19 and “Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for COVID-19”;
  • $3.25 billion in supplemental funding for the Strategic National Stockpile; and
  • Billions of dollars through various agencies to assist with equitable distribution of vaccines, public health, and national testing and tracing efforts; among other provisions.

For the full bill text, explanatory statements, and other documents, click here. To read AACN’s press release on the passage of this year-end package, click here. For information on AACN’s advocacy work, visit AACN’s Policy and Advocacy page and for more detailed funding numbers for priority programs, see AACN’s FY 2021 Appropriations funding chart.

These increases, among others, represent the power of our unified voice! We want to thank all AACN members who advocated for these programs throughout the year, responded to action alerts, and continued to highlight the needs of academic nursing during this unprecedented time. We look ahead to more activity and advocacy in the New Year!

Senator Merkley and Congresswoman Underwood Propose Agenda to Support Nurses and Nursing Students in Future COVID-19 Legislation

On December 17, Senate Nursing Caucus Co-Chair, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14), a registered nurse, released a blueprint of priorities and recommendations to support the current and future nursing workforce. This framework outlines areas for future legislation and items for the incoming Administration and 117th Congress, including:

  • Continue to support and bolster the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Development Programs.
  • Pass the Future Advancement of Academic Nursing (FAAN) Act (S.4396/H.R.7945) to modernize nursing education and recruit a diverse nursing workforce.
  • Improve and expand federal student loan forgiveness, scholarships, and incentives for nurse educators.

For a full overview of this agenda, along with quotes from AACN’s Board Chair, Dr. Susan Bakewell-Sachs and AACN’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Deborah Trautman, see Senator Merkley’s press release, here.

Student Loan Opportunity for Schools of Nursing

Applications for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Nursing Student Loans (NSL) program are now being accepted. NSL is one of four HRSA school-based loan programs that provide low interest loans for students who are pursuing a healthcare career, including nursing. Applicants must be public colleges and universities who offer a degree in nursing. Student must be enrolled full-time in an associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degree program. Final applications for the NSL program are due by February 25, 2021. For more information on the NSL program and other school-based loan programs offered, click here.

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