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Biden-Harris Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture Establish New Program to Support Rural Health Care Providers, Invests $692,400 in Oklahoma

Candy Taylor
Release Date

STILLWATER, OK, April 13, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the establishment of a program under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to expand rural hospitals and providers’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, testing, and supplies, while helping rural health care providers stay financially solvent in the long-term. The initial awards of the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants total $43 million and will benefit 2.2 million people who live and work in rural America. Oklahoma is receiving $692,400.

This announcement is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Rural Infrastructure Tour, a multi-faceted outreach effort involving cabinet and sub-cabinet officials across federal agencies as they travel to and learn from rural communities across the country.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA mobilized our staff and resources to respond in record time to improve the long-term viability of rural health care providers and services across this nation,” Vilsack said. “USDA used an all-hands-on-deck approach to create the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants program to address a variety of immediate health care needs and services in rural communities. The American Rescue Plan Act and this program are examples of the government’s ability to respond quickly to ensure every person and family has access to high-quality health care no matter their zip code.”

“Oklahoma is fortunate to award these Emergency Rural Health Care Grants to benefit our rural citizens,” USDA Rural Development Oklahoma State Director Kenneth Corn said. “Enhanced access to telehealth, distribution of healthy meals, and expanding our capacity to provide healthcare services is critical to our efforts to strengthen infrastructure in rural Oklahoma.”

Projects in Oklahoma include:

• Noble County Family Young Men’s Christian Association will use a $31,100 grant to expand services to the Hunger Relief Expansion Initiative. The YMCA offers food services to the local community. Expansion of services include personnel costs, travel for meal pick up costs, new rubber flooring mats, 15-passenger van, commercial kitchen island, PPE and cleaning supplies, storage bins, marketing & promotional materials and staff supplies. This Expansion Initiative will allow the YMCA to expand their service capacity to better serve the rural community and provide hunger relief to more children and their families.

 Kiowa County Hospital Authority will use a $28,900 grant to purchase equipment for the Kiowa County Hospital Authority. The plan is to purchase Cepheid lab equipment to allow for in-house COVID testing and to upgrade the PACS radiology server to allow for remote reading by teleradiology physicians. This purchase will benefit the citizens of Kiowa County and the city of Hobart.

• Grady Memorial Hospital Authority will use a $191,300 grant to purchase a wireless network. With the new wireless network and access points, the hospital will be able to increase connectivity and coverage to their parking lot pop-up clinic where vaccine administration and COVID-19 tests are performed. This includes the ability to facilitate telehealth interactive consults between the pop-up clinic and the clinicians inside the hospital. This investment will benefit the citizens in the rural area of Chickasha.

• McAlester Regional Healthcare Authority will use a $71,300 grant to implement a telehealth program for McAlester Regional Hospital. McAlester Regional Healthcare Authority (MRHC) will create a telehealth program to provide a safe alternative way for patients to see doctors during the pandemic. The implementation of virtual visits will provide an alternative to coming into the hospital or clinic, while decreasing no show appointments. This is especially needed due to Covid and the desire to keep patients out of the hospital and clinics unless medically necessary and at the same time providing access to healthcare for those in rural areas. MRHC will use the grant funds to purchase 127 computers, program license and to hire a trainer/coordinator. The coordinator will provide technical support and training for the doctors and staff.

• McAlester Regional Healthcare Authority will use $151,100 purchase hospital laboratory equipment. The new equipment, including an analyzer with automation system and two chemistry systems, will allow the hospital to test for SARS CoV-2 antigen and antibodies, metabolic chemistries, therapeutic drug monitoring and immunoassay test.

• City of Erick will use a $218,700 grant to purchase an ambulance for the city of Erick, Oklahoma. This ambulance will be equipped with HEPA filters, UV lights, portable decontamination system, and infection control filtration for driver separation during calls to minimize decontamination between calls.

Background: Emergency Rural Health Care Grants
Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021 to deliver immediate economic relief to people impacted by the pandemic.

In August 2021, USDA made the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants available through the American Rescue Plan to help rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to health care services and nutrition assistance.

The assistance is helping provide immediate relief to support rural hospitals, health care clinics and local communities. USDA is administering the funds through Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program. 

Background: Rural Infrastructure Tour
Under the leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA and its federal partners in the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force are working with rural communities to deliver on the promise of support for rural America.

The Rural Infrastructure Tour is a multi-faceted outreach effort involving cabinet and sub-cabinet officials across federal agencies as they travel to and learn from rural communities across the country. These visits will highlight new federal funding and investments already underway through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a once-in-a-generation investment that will support rural communities and their infrastructure needs.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit the GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.