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October 26, 2021, 9:05 a.m. News Staff — A $100 million investment in the State Loan Repayment Program announced this month by HHS addresses two top AAFP advocacy priorities: bolstering the primary care workforce and improving health equity.
Allocated via the American Rescue Plan Act, the grants will be issued over four years to “state-run programs that support, recruit and retain primary care clinicians who live and work in underserved communities,” the agency said in an Oct. 14 press release. “This funding represents a five-fold increase to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s State Loan Repayment Program and helps improve health equity by ensuring that clinicians working in high-need communities remain in them.”
The SLRP is part of the National Health Service Corps and provides grants to states and territories to operate loan repayment programs for primary care clinicians working in Health Professional Shortage Areas. In January, the AAFP called on the White House to preserve and expand the NHSC as part of a comprehensive approach to strengthening the primary care workforce. The Academy also this year advised lawmakers that the NHSC is vital to pandemic recovery.
This past spring’s American Rescue Plan earmarked $800 million for NHSC funding that — along with $330 million to expand the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program and $7.6 billion for community health centers — the Academy recognized as a substantial victory.
Every state is eligible to apply for the new grants, as are Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories; the deadline is April 8, 2022. Starting Sept. 1, 2022, HRSA expects to make up to 50 awards a year, for as much as $1 million each, through 2026. The program’s flexibilities include a no-cost-sharing requirement: States will not be required to demonstrate a specific matching amount for the federal funding and can use up to 10% of a grant for administrative costs.
The Academy’s Center for State Policy is encouraging chapters and Academy members to work with their states toward applying for the grants. The CSP has an SLRP backgrounder detailing the subject.