U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today announced that USDA is awarding $110 million in grants to improve health care facilities in rural towns across the Nation. These grants will help 208 rural health care organizations expand critical services for nearly 5 million people in 43 states and Guam. In Delaware and Maryland, a total of $6,033,600 is being invested in 14 local projects.
“Access to modern and sustainable health care infrastructure is critical to the health, well-being and prosperity for the millions of people who live in rural and Tribal communities,” Torres Small said. “That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to making sure that people who need it most, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality and reliable health care services like urgent care, primary care and dental care. Through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants I am announcing today, USDA is being a strong partner to people in 43 states and Guam.”
The investments USDA is announcing will help build, renovate and equip health care facilities like hospitals and clinics in rural areas. They also include more than $9 million for 12 rural health care organizations to help 187,000 people living in energy communities, which are areas with high concentrations of coal-dependent jobs. This funding will help communities that are vital to our country’s energy production as the nation transitions to a clean-energy economy.
The Biden-Harris Administration is making this Emergency Rural Health Care Grants Program funding available through its historic legislative package, the American Rescue Plan Act. The 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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted our healthcare system, especially in rural communities. We thank our healthcare workers, food providers, and essential workers who sacrificed so much for us during this crisis,” said USDA Rural Development State Director for Delaware and Maryland, David Baker. “These Emergency Rural Health Care Grants will help these critical services continue to serve our rural population, especially the most vulnerable members.”
The investments will be used for projects such as those to help rural hospitals and health care providers implement telehealth and nutrition assistance programs, increase staffing to administer COVID-19 vaccines and testing, build or renovate facilities, and purchase medical supplies. They will also help regional partnerships, public bodies, nonprofits and Tribes solve regional rural health care problems, which will help build a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system in response to the pandemic. The projects in Delaware and Maryland include:
- Food Bank of Delaware Inc., Milford, DE, is receiving $1,000,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to support food supply costs over the next 36 months for the food distribution organization. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the social vulnerabilities of populations in Delaware, and Food Bank of Delaware reports that their Milford facility now operates at 165-percent capacity and anticipates this level of service will continue for the foreseeable future. They estimate during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2020, there were an estimated 145,000 Delaware residents that were classified as food insecure or received emergency food assistance. With rising food costs due to inflation, supply chain issues, and disruptions in food systems, Food Bank of Delaware is concerned about the cost of their food supplies over the coming years.
- Milton Community Food Pantry, Milton, DE, is receiving $126,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to upgrade the refrigeration and walk-in freezer for a food storage and distribution facility. The funds will also be used towards the purchase of bulk food over the next three years to ensure food is readily available. Milton Community Food Pantry Inc. (MCFP) plans to use the recently purchased building to distribute food as a food pantry to serve those in need. The community served includes senior citizens, veterans, people with disabilities, and families in need. With a dedicated building, MCFP Inc. will be able to operate more effortlessly with increased storage and space for packing food. The facility will be operated in a drive through model increasing safety, with minimal exposure and contact for clients and volunteers while still getting food to them. The purchase of the walk in freezer will allow MCFP Inc. to "rescue" more food by having a larger space for storage.
- Bayhealth Foundation, Milton, DE, is receiving $385,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to support the purchase of equipment for Bayhealth Foundation's Milton, Delaware facility, Bayhealth Total Care. This new facility will offer a "hybrid" model for their patients with medical offices on the second floor, and an emergency department (ED) on the first floor. The funds will also be used to purchase equipment that will disinfect, diagnose, assess, and treat COVID-19. This equipment includes a PCR Analyzer, Ventilators (BIPAP), UV Light Disinfectors, a Mobile Xray, Electrocardiographs (ECG), and a CT Scanner. Bayhealth Foundation has identified this equipment purchased with these grant funds as essential to their care and treatment of COVID-19 in the Bayhealth Total Care facility.
- Beebe Medical Foundation, Rehoboth Beach, DE, is receiving $150,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to support the reimbursement of health care-related revenue loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Beebe Medical Center needed to divert staff and other resources to help support the critical need to establish testing, vaccination services, and treatment services to fight COVID-19, resulting in a $50M revenue loss over a seven-month period in 2020.
- TidalHealth Nanticoke, Inc., Millsboro, DE, is receiving $1,000,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to support the purchase of equipment to treat and diagnose COVID-19 for TidalHealth Nanticoke, Inc.'s Millsboro, Delaware facility that is currently under construction. This new Millsboro facility will support services offering cardiology, orthopedics, imaging, urgent care, diagnostic services, and a pharmacy. This equipment will include, MRI, CT imaging, and General Radiology. TidalHealth has identified these pieces of equipment as essential to their care and treatment of COVID-19.
- Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company, Selbyville, DE, is receiving $100,500. This Rural Development investment will be used to support the purchase of an ambulance and equipment for Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company (VFC). The need to purchase a newer ambulance with updated equipment became a noticeable concern for Selbyville VFC as the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the steep increase in emergency calls during the COVID-19 pandemic, Selbyville VFC had to increase their emergency response staff from three individuals to nine to handle the volume of calls. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, their call volume increased 45 percent, and their call volume continued to increase 50 percent both in 2021 and then again in 2022. Selbyville also entered into a contract with Beebe South Coastal Health to transport COVID-19 patients between their healthcare campuses. In March 2021, Selbyville VFC received a grant of $250,000 from the Sussex County Council, which was a joint effort from Delaware Community Foundation and Sussex County to support projects related to COVID-19. Rural Development funds will support the additional costs to fully fund this ambulance through grant funds.
- Sussex Post No. 8 American Legion Inc., Georgetown, DE, is receiving $192,500. This Rural Development investment will be used to replace an aging ambulance unit, allowing Sussex Post No. 8, America Legion Inc. to better serve the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increased call volume due to the pandemic strained their current ambulance, sharply increasing the mileage and maintenance required. The closest medical facility is 14 miles from their 911 district and takes approximately one hour per transport for a patient. This has produced such a burden on their services that they have been borrowing units from other services because of mechanical issues. The new ambulance will allow Sussex Post No. 8 to respond to emergency situations more effectively as well protect themselves and the patrons of the vehicle from COVID-19 virus.
- Brook Lane Health Services Inc., Hagerstown, MD, is receiving $268,100. This Rural Development investment will be used to support the economic recovery for Brook Lane Health Services Inc. from the financial impact of COVID-19. Brook Lane Health Services provides various forms of psychotherapy, substance abuse therapy, outpatient therapy, psychiatric, and inpatient services for both children and adults. This organization has four locations, including Hagerstown, Laurel Hall, and two facilities in Frederick, Maryland. Over the last three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brook Lane Health Services was forced to shut down some of their inpatient beds to reduce the spread of COVID within their facility. This investment will replace a portion of the health care related lost revenue.
- Westminster Rescue Mission, Westminster, MD, is receiving $88,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to support Westminster Rescue Mission's Addiction Healing Center (AHC) and better prepare and equip the staff and facility to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. This support includes broadened access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination, better preparation for an influx of individuals seeking Substance Use Disorder Treatment, and better support for the AHC clients. With COVID-19 playing a huge part in the opioid crisis, AHC is providing double the treatment, leading to the need for additional staffing. The center plans to hire a nurse practitioner, peer recovery coordinator, and client care coordinator. Drug and alcohol use has increased during the pandemic, but the number of people seeking treatment decreased with the fear of exposure to COVID-19. WRM will be able to treat these patients in all areas with the additional staff to support the ongoing efforts to combat this pandemic.
- Westminster Rescue Mission, Westminster, MD, is receiving $910,400. This second Rural Development investment will be used to upgrade the Westminster Rescue Mission's current facility by paving out three different areas of the campus to enable better flow of cars for the increase in patrons due to COVID-19. The facility will upgrade its refrigeration and security measures — key-less entry and outside lighting. The facility is currently functioning as a food distribution center but seeks to improve the campus based on the increase in patrons due to COVID-19 pandemic. The result of this investment will deliver safe and secure road ways and parking areas for the larger vehicles delivering larger quantities of food.
- End Hunger in Charles County, Maryland Inc., Indian Head, MD, is receiving $176,500. This Rural Development investment will be used to expand End Hunger's services in partnership with Indian Head Grocery Initiative and Mancuso Foods by establishing a food distribution facility in Indian Head, Maryland., in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project addresses food insecurity to allow residents to benefit from a food distribution facility in collaboration with an up-and-coming grocery store, Mancuso Foods, and local food pantries. End Hunger plans to use grant funds to invest in a vacant building, purchase two refrigerated trucks to help with deliveries, develop walk-in freezers and refrigerators, and also purchase bulk food. The result of this investment will increase food supply in Indian Head, population 3,844 with over 12 percent living in poverty. The community has not had a fresh food source since 1999. The expansion of End Hunger will result in food access to low income families, increase job opportunities, and better serve the community.
- Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center, Easton, MD, is receiving $459,000. This Rural Development investment will be used to create a more resilient and sustainable regional food system by partnering with Chesapeake Culinary Center for the establishment of Eastern Shore Delmarva Farm to Freezer project; a produce processing and aggregation facility. The Farm to Freezer Facility aims to solve a number of problems in the region, including increasing the availability of locally processed produce, especially to areas of the Eastern Shore having limited access; creating increased revenue and profit margin opportunities for local farmers and growers by providing wider access to different markets; and creating the opportunity for growers to scale and diversify their production and increase employment. The facility will occupy 5,000 square feet, with half the space used for processing and Individual Quick Frozen equipment and the other half set aside for refrigerated, freezer, and dry storage and staging for shipping and receiving. The community served by this project includes several counties on the Eastern Shore — Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester — where the estimated poverty rate is over 13 percent and access to nutritious food is limited.
- Minary’s Dream Alliance, Chestertown, MD, is receiving $374,900. This Rural Development investment will be used to fund Minary's Dream Alliance's 'Feed the Elderly' food distribution program for senior low-income residents of Kent County, Maryland. Funded categories will include five part-time staff, food and packaging supplies, equipment, and travel expenses. The 'Feed the Elderly' program was established during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide food distribution services. Minary's Dream Alliance serves approximately 50 percent of the Kent County senior population living in poverty. Kent County has pledged funding to support this program through the next three years. This food distribution program will continue to provide essential services through the next three years with this funding.
- Garrett County Memorial Hospital, Oakland, MD, is receiving $802,700. This Rural Development investment will be used to purchase capital equipment directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This equipment only request will provide Garrett County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) with technology and diagnostic tools to meet the ongoing needs of patients. The purchase of such equipment will allow GCMH to replace and upgrade equipment that has been exhausted while caring for COVID-19 patients.
The investments USDA is announcing today will also expand health care services in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming and Guam.
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. Within months after the Act’s passage, USDA responded quickly by making this funding available to ensure the long-term availability of rural health care services. In August 2021, USDA made the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants available through the American Rescue Plan Act 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.
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 our 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, ensuring access to 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.