Legislation that would give nurses in New York state priority access to public college and university programs will be part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2021 State of the State agenda, his office announced on Sunday. 

Cuomo delivers the address on Monday in Albany. 

The proposal would give both licensed nurses and nursing candidates priorty admission to state university and city university programs in the state starting in the fall of 2021 to fulfill credentials and continue practicing. 

"Health care workers showed up every day to help keep us safe. They worked tirelessly to save thousands of lives, all while putting their own lives at risk. When I asked them to step up, they did so blindly. They knew the risks and they still came to work every day to protect the rest of us. Many put their lives on hold to help," Cuomo said in a statement. 

"They had our back, now we must have theirs. We're giving these COVID heroes priority to the greatest university system in the world, to complete their degrees and continue to do what they have done best throughout this pandemic: keep us all safe."

Nurses are required in New York complete a  Baccalaureate of Science Degree in Nursing within 10 years of becoming a nurse maintain their state license. The SUNY and CUNY systems will work with campuses to implement the access program. 

"Within the darkest moments caused by this pandemic, our healthcare professionals have been an inspiration to us all for their heroic and selfless efforts as they provide life-saving care," said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras. "This is especially true of our nurses who are the heartbeat of healthcare. Governor Cuomo's proposal to provide priority access for New York's licensed nurses is exactly what we need to strengthen and protect our healthcare system. SUNY stands ready to meet the Governor's challenge."