- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2021

The Biden administration announced last week it has allocated billions of dollars to help hospitals in rural communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The administration announced $500 million of funding from the Department of Agriculture on Friday to create the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program to assist rural hospitals and promote COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in those regions.

More than $120 million in grants will be doled to bolster the long-term viability of rural health care providers, according to the White House.

Rural communities have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic as cases have stretched health care workers and hospitals to their limits.

A study earlier this year by McKinsey & Co. found that rural residents account for 14 percent of the U.S. population, but are 16 percent of all new COVID-19 deaths. That study did not take into account the surging delta variant, which is also hitting rural communities particularly hard.

Under the new initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services also earmarked $8.5 billion from pandemic relief funds to pay health care providers in rural communities who provide Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Plan.

The funds will also help rural hospitals stay open in the long run and improve the care provided to rural communities, the White House said in a statement.

“These funds will help ensure that providers can effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and will place them on a stable financial footing to continue serving their communities into the future,” the statement said.

Other measures announced by the White House include expanding telehealth access for rural communities, expanding Veterans Affairs programs for rural providers, and spending $52 million on health care workers that are in short supply in rural communities.

Democratic senators praised the move by the White House.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said in a statement the funding will make “a big difference” for rural communities in her state.

“Strengthening access to quality health care in rural areas is crucial to the access and prosperity of our state,” she said in a statement.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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