'The Most Ambitious Public Health Campaign In History'By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – You’ve heard of Space Force. Now, one of Colorado’s U.S. senators wants to create a “Health Force.” Sen. Michael Bennet was inspired by a Depression-era program that put people to work building roads, schools and projects like Flagstaff Mountain’s Sunrise Amphitheater in Boulder, Rim Rock Road in Colorado National Monument and Red Rocks Park in the Denver area.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave people jobs building public infrastructure, Bennet hopes to do the same for public health.

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“We’ve got a once-in-a-century public health challenge. We’ve got millions of young people across the country with a variety of different backgrounds sitting home, their studies and careers potentially frozen in place.”

Bennet is co-sponsor of legislation that would help fund health care jobs for hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. He says it is one of the most ambitious and expansive public health campaigns in the nation’s history. Under the bill, the CDC would provide training for the workers and public health departments across the country would provide jobs.

“Think about all of the things that need to be done. Conducting contract tracing, administering COVID-19 tests, providing COVID-19 vaccines when they’re available.”

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Bennet says, by some estimates, Colorado’s public health system is underfunded by 40%. The bill calls for an initial investment of $110 billion over the next two years. Bennet says it’s a small price to help contain the spread of coronavirus and keep the economy open.

“Every day our economy is shut down, we lose $20 billion of economic activity.”

As the Civilian Conservation Corp left a tremendous legacy during the Great Depression, Bennet says, so too will the Health Force during the coronavirus pandemic.

“From lives saved, business saved and future generations of leaders who grew out of crisis because we made a commitment to our public health.”

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Bennet is hoping to include the bill in the next COVID-19 relief package, which Congress is expected to take up early next month. If it passes, training would start this summer and, for most positions, would be as little as 100 hours. Bennet says he is working on Republican support for the bill.

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Shaun Boyd

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