Physicians have not been immune from challenging developments in immigration. Fears linger over potential defunding of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), two programs that have been essential for J-1 waiver physicians. Debate is expected to heat up in coming weeks as the federal budget has only been funded through September 30th.
The Delta Regional Authority makes strategic investments of federal appropriations into the physical and human infrastructure of the Mississippi Delta region. The DRA also provides unique waiver opportunities for J-1 waiver physicians who commit to providing medical services to its 252 counties and parishes, the most distressed area of the country. Since its inception, the DRA has placed more than 250 physicians in high-need communities through its Delta Doctors program. This beloved and well-utilized program does not have the same numerical limitations as the Conrad Waiver program, making it a valuable asset in the provision of health care to underserved populations.
The Trump administration budget unveiled in March would eliminate funding for 62 agencies, including the DRA and ARC. Any cut is likely to be hard fought, but uncertainty lingers for those applying for waivers under these federal programs.
Chris Masingill, the Federal Co-Chair at DRA, announced last week that he is no longer serving as a holdover from the Obama administration. Support letters for J-1 waivers and PNIW based I-140 petitions cannot be signed until he is replaced. Whether a replacement will be appointed before the budget is resolved is uncertain and a delay in the completion of any pending cases is expected.