NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is receiving more than $32 million in federal money to support workforce development in public health, Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) announced Friday.

The governor said this first-of-its-kind investment of $32,253,484 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the next five years would directly support the state’s public health workforce. The funding provides access to more jobs and healthcare to communities in need.

“We need a public health team that is capable of addressing not just what we’ve seen in the past, but what we see going forward,” Lamont said.

State, local and health leaders said this new initiative builds a pipeline to the public health workforce by creating an associate’s degree program.

Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s public health commissioner, said it would give opportunities to communities that need it the most.

“The focus on equity and our most disadvantaged communities are at the heart of this grant, making sure that our students are going to be representing the communities where they’re going to be serving,” she said.”

More than $12 million of the federal grant would go directly to local health departments to hire more workers while also providing more training for current employees.

“We’re going to be using this funding to sustain the current workforce we have, have career-development opportunities for them to feel empowered in the work that we’re doing,” Juthani said.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the grant is vital to healthcare heroes fighting on the frontlines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a battle for public health,” he said. “Think of it as a military campaign. The frontline troops have been burnt out. They need reinforcement.”

Leaders said the funding helps Connecticut’s newly launched Office of Public Health Workforce Development to help them execute other programs in the future.