Legislation that could provide a boost to the skilled nursing workforce has earned a stamp of approval from Congress — and providers.

The bill relaunches federal programs that help provide education and training in geriatrics. The House approved the bipartisan Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (or “EMPOWER”) Act on Monday.

“This legislation is an important part of the solution to our field’s workforce challenges,” said Barbara Gay, vice president of public policy communications for LeadingAge, by email to McKnight’s.

The bill reauthorizes the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement program, which allows schools to receive grants to integrate geriatrics with primary care training education, Medical schools would use those funds to teach future physicians about seniors’ unique care needs, while also encouraging those doctors to work more closely with community partners, such as nursing homes.

“We are especially encouraged that long-term services and supports are specifically mentioned as potential clinical training sites, recognition that long-term services and supports providers too seldom receive,” Gay said. “By itself, this bill is not the entire answer to our workforce challenges, but it moves us a step closer to effective solutions.”

Priority for grants will go to programs focused on rural or underserved communities of older people; integrating behavior health with primary care; and training providers across settings, including nursing homes. All are “pressing issues” for the field, Gay noted.

While LeadingAge applauded the bill’s passage, Gay added that her organization had pressed for $51.1 million in total funding for geriatric workforce education, with the final tally landing at only $40.7.

HR 3728 now moves to the Senate, which has proposed a similar bipartisan measure, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). That bill includes $45 million to reauthorize the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, with another $6 million toward the Geriatric Academic Career Awards Program, for a total of $51 million, Gay said.