Public Policy News – July 2020
CSWE Supports ICE Guidance Reversal
CSWE Urges Investment for Public Health Infrastructure
CSWE Participates in Biannual Full Alliance EWA Meeting
CSWE and SSWR Submit Joint Response on “Preparing for the Next Pandemic”
Congress Examines Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Education
Congress Examines Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on Health
The Trump Administration rescinded guidance on July 14 to deport international college students whose classes were offered exclusively online. CSWE, along with many other organizations and schools, had twice last week voiced concerns about the guidance to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf. CSWE joined more than 80 education associations in calling for ICE to withdraw the guidance. That effort notes, “We ask that … grant needed flexibility for our international students and institutions during the global pandemic.” In a separate effort, CSWE was joined by more than a dozen health professions education associations making the same request. That request states, “ICE should allow students with valid visas the opportunity to continue receiving their education in the manner determined by their school to be the safest and most effective for them and their classmates.”
CSWE joined several organizations in a letter to congressional leadership requesting a significant long-term investment for the public health infrastructure. The letter states the importance of increased support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need “to strengthen it before the next pandemic hits and avoid the loss of life and social and economic disruption we are facing today.” The letter recommends $4.5 billion in additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for state, local, tribal, and territorial core public health infrastructure to support essential activities including disease surveillance, policy development and support, and community partnership development.
CSWE representatives attended the Eldercare Workforce Alliance’s (EWA’s) June 17–18 biannual meeting via Web conference. A main topic of discussion was the impact of COVID-19 on health-care policy, the aging population, and the eldercare workforce. There is concern in Congress and among EWA members that the COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate shortages already present in the eldercare workforce. In other action, members reviewed EWA’s policy agenda and future directions, discussed recommendations and progress from the National Academies report “Retooling for an Aging America,” and heard an update on advocacy efforts for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and Geriatrics Academic Career Award, which were both reauthorized by Congress through fiscal year 2025.
CSWE and the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) submitted a joint response to Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) white paper titled “Preparing for the Next Pandemic,” released June 9. Senator Alexander invited responses for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider. The white paper contained five categories of recommendations:
- Test, Treatments, and Vaccines—Accelerate research and development
- Disease Surveillance—Expand ability to detect, identify, model, and track emerging infectious diseases
- Stockpiles, Distribution, and Surges—Rebuild and maintain federal and state stockpiles and improve medical supply surge capacity and distribution
- Public Health Capabilities—Improve state and local capacity and respond
- Who Is on the Flagpole?—Improve coordination of federal agencies during a public health emergency
The response from CSWE and SSWR highlighted the critical need to include social workers in the public health infrastructure when planning for emergency response. Social workers were designated essential workers by federal and state entities during the COVID-19. Additional recommendations from CSWE and SSWR included increasing support of social and behavioral health research and social justice efforts, investing in the social work workforce to address health care needs, and providing support to legislation that contributes to expanding the public health workforce that includes social workers.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its fourth hearing on COVID-19 to discuss lessons learned in preparation for the next pandemic. HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) highlighted the committee’s plans to pass pandemic preparedness legislation this year, with his white paper “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” serving as a framework for policy discussions. Several common themes emerged, including the need for sustainable federal investments in the public health infrastructure. A key theme of the discussion was the need to address health disparities and structural racism.
The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing, “A Major Test: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Higher Education.” Members and witnesses noted that COVID-19 was straining the higher education system and that preexisting systemic inequities were being exacerbated. Some members noted that this public health crisis was an opportunity to substantively reform the Higher Education Act, the statute governing higher education. Members and witnesses talked about a future for higher education that includes stackable credentials, leveraging employer expertise, and increasing the use of competency-based education. There was general agreement that the pandemic is adding costs for students and institutions. Dr. Shaun R. Harper, president of American Educational Research Association noted, “The pandemic has left all of us in higher education with much to do and rethink. As we continue engaging in the important planning and recovery activities … it is important that we also devote serious attention to numerous racial equity threats.”
The House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee held a full committee hearing, “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” featuring testimony from some of the key players in the administration’s response to COVID-19 response. Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Admiral Giroir announced an initiative called the National Infrastructure for Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 Within Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities (NIMIC). The 3-year, $40 million project will coordinate a national network of community-based organizations to more effectively deliver education and resources on COVID-19 to minority, rural, and socially vulnerable communities. Admiral Giroir acknowledged the impact of social determinants of health on COVID-19 outcomes in disadvantaged communities and noted that NIMIC is designed to help address those health disparities.
On June 30 the House E&C Committee held another hearing, titled “High Anxiety and Stress: Legislation to Improve Mental Health During Crisis.” It featured testimony from the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and other nonprofit organizations and focused on identifying ways to increase access to mental health services such as more use of telehealth practices and increasing the number of mental health professionals in the health-care workforce. Members and witnesses emphasized that mental health disorders affect everyone but remain a neglected portion of the health-care system. Witnesses noted the disparate impacts on marginalized communities and the need for more support for mental health parity in insurance payment models.
CSWE SPARK! is the online community designed to spark conversation, share ideas, and collaborate with social work faculty members and other professionals from around the world. Recent posts include a notice of special interest (NOSI) announcement from the National Institute on Drug Abuse due to the urgent need for "remotely delivered Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatments to reduce patient burden and for methods to conduct clinical trials remotely." The purpose of the NOSI is to stimulate research to evaluate the safety and efficacy of telemedicine treatments for SUD and to develop tools for remote data collection for clinical trials of treatments for SUD. For advocacy and policy updates and federal agency funding opportunities relevant to social work, please visit https://spark.cswe.org/home.
Resources on health equity in the context of COVID-19 and disproportionate outcomes for marginalized groups can be found on the National Academy of Medicine website.