Bill would provide more funding for rural hospitals

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has introduced legislation that would give additional funding to health care providers struggling to keep their doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Save Our Rural Health Providers Act would require 20% of the $100 billion left unobligated from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act be set aside for rural health care providers. Congress provided $175 billion for the relief fund.

“I’m really glad in the first $75 billion, the administration has generally obligated about 20% to rural health care providers, and I want to make sure that the same thing happens with the remainder of the money,” Torres Small, D-N.M., told the Journal in a phone interview.

“They (health care providers) often struggle to keep their doors open even in the best of times,” she said. “That’s why I’ve introduced this legislation.”

She said a record number of rural hospitals closed nationally in 2019, “and 2020 is already on pace to surpass that.”

According to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, 18 rural hospitals closed last year, and 12 have closed this year. There have been 172 rural closures since the center started keeping track.

“Rural clinics and hospitals have had to limit other services in order to maintain personal protective equipment and try to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Torres Small said.

She said doctors and nurses have been laid off in New Mexico “because they couldn’t provide the services they needed in order to keep those positions funded.”

Torres Small said she has talked to clinic directors who have had to shut down entire departments because of falling revenue and said rural hospitals around the country are having to file for bankruptcy to stay open. Funding has been used so far by health care providers for operating costs and expenses related to COVID-19 care, she said..

Torres Small is confident the legislation will move through Congress quickly.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “A lot of effort goes into building a strong coalition of Republicans and Democrats and getting it moving.”

Torres Small teamed with Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn., to introduce the bill in the House. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is the sponsor of the companion bill in the Senate.

PAYCHECK PROGRAM FIX: Legislation to improve the Paycheck Protection Program was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday after passing the Senate.

“New Mexico’s small businesses now have the flexibility they need to help keep their doors open and staff employed as we continue the work to rebuild our economy,” Torres Small said.

The bill passed the House two weeks ago.

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act will extend forgiveness for expenses from eight weeks to 24 weeks and will extend the hiring deadline.

It will increase the limitation on nonpayroll expenses such as rent and utilities from 25% to 40%, extend the program from June 30 to Dec. 31, and extend loan terms from two to five years.

“Our local businesses are relying on us to help them weather the economic impacts of this public health emergency, but there were issues in the Paycheck Protection Program that blocked them from getting the help they need,” Rep. Deb. Haaland, D-N.M., said in a news release.

In New Mexico, 20,431 PPP loans have been processed and approved, totaling about $2.2 billion, Torres Small’s office said.

“There’s still funding available for small businesses that need help,” Torres Small said.

Scott Turner: sturner@abqjournal.com

Share Your Story

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango


taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
APS sees uptick in violence as students return
ABQnews Seeker
Two shootings have taken place since ... Two shootings have taken place since August
2
Drunk ATV driver who hit woman faces prison
ABQnews Seeker
Victim suffered multiple injuries, spent months ... Victim suffered multiple injuries, spent months in intensive care
3
Cannon AFB tries to speed cleanup
ABQnews Seeker
Base tests nearby soil, water for ... Base tests nearby soil, water for pollutants
4
Stream Commission seeks $2M for projects
ABQnews Seeker
Agency wants to build river habitat ... Agency wants to build river habitat for endangered species
5
Hard lives collide in ABQ street corner shooting
ABQnews Seeker
A man known for asking for ... A man known for asking for money had witnessed many crimes before killing
6
NM hits 70% threshold for COVID vaccines
ABQnews Seeker
But deaths continue to rise due ... But deaths continue to rise due to surge fueled by delta variant
7
Balloon pilot in deadly crash had marijuana, cocaine in ...
ABQnews Seeker
Five killed after craft struck power ... Five killed after craft struck power lines and plummeted to the ground
8
Pandemic learning losses may mean more school days
ABQnews Seeker
After 43 of 89 districts reject ... After 43 of 89 districts reject adding days voluntarily, mandate a possibility
9
15 New Mexicans complete state-backed 3D printing program
ABQnews Seeker
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal A ... Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal A new state-funded boot camp program has helped 15 New Mex ...