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Jones introduces bill to allow rural hospitals to access relief money

The patient blue bed with bed sheet in the hospital.

A bill has been introduced in Congress that would make federal emergency funds available to small hospitals that don’t currently qualify, according to Sen. Doug Jones, who co-sponsored the legislation with members of both parties.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — established the Paycheck Protection Program to provide relief to small business owners with fewer than 500 employees. Many small hospitals are part of larger healthcare systems that exceed the employee limit, making them ineligible for PPP loans. The bill waives the rule for non-profit critical access hospitals and hospitals that serve rural areas.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure that Alabamians can access the health care they need no matter where they live,” said Jones, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “Many of our rural hospitals were struggling even before this pandemic, and are now being stretched to a breaking point by the spread of COVID-19. It’s crucial that they can access the support they need to continue to provide care to their communities, and PPP funds will be another tool in the toolbox to help them stay afloat.”

Hospitals and medical facilities have experienced increased costs for staff, personal protective equipment and other safety measures due to the pandemic. In addition, many have lost revenue because of fewer elective procedures.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Alabama Hospital Association estimated that 88 percent of Alabama hospitals were operating in the red.

The legislation is also sponsored by Republican Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, Democratic Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith and Republican Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

Micah Danney is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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