Investments Include $32 Million to Help More Than 1 Million People in Socially Vulnerable Communities
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small today announced that USDA is awarding $74 million in grants to improve health care facilities in rural towns across the Nation. These grants will help 143 rural health care organizations expand critical services for 3 million people in 37 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. The investments include $32 million for 67 rural health care organizations to help more than 1 million people living in socially vulnerable communities. In Maryland, $306,600 is being invested in Pocomoke City.
“Under the leadership of President Biden, Vice President Harris and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA is committed to making sure that people, no matter where they live, have access to high-quality and reliable health care services like urgent care, primary care, and dental care,” Torres Small said. “The Emergency Rural Health Care Grants being announced today will build, renovate and equip health care provider facilities like hospitals and clinics in rural areas in 37 states. Having sustainable and accessible health care infrastructure in rural areas is critical to the health and well-being of the millions of people living in small towns across the Nation.”
In Pocomoke City, this investment will be used to purchase an ambulance that will improve access to emergency medical services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When their existing ambulance was manufactured, the current safety standards for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) had not been established. NIOSH and NIST standards both outline innovations in PPE and equipment for emergency response vehicles that have become even more essential during the pandemic. SAE improved the safety standards for patients and EMS crew, including enhanced restraints, higher visibility of reflections on vehicles, and an automatic patient lifting system. The new ambulance will include better air filtration with heating, ventilation and air conditioning that provides comprehensive air disinfection, and a power lift system for administering oxygen. These features are not only important to the patients, but also to the crew maneuvering the equipment. Pocomoke City reported that more than 50 percent of their EMS personnel contracted COVID over the last two years..
“This funding will improve access to emergency medical services, which were impacted during the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David Baker, USDA Rural Development State Director for Delaware and Maryland. “Their older ambulance from 2012 has over 200,000 miles and does not meet current safety features. With these factors in mind, replacing the town’s ambulance with up-to-date technology is imperative to the health and safety of the community, and is especially important to the vulnerable populations. We thank Pocomoke City’s and all emergency response and health care workers for their above and beyond work during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Biden-Harris Administration made these funds available in the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants Programs 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.
USDA Rural Development promotes a healthy community and environment through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants to make sure people, kids and families have access to the health care they need. The grants support the ability of rural communities to provide health care to the people and places in our country that often lack access.
The investments will 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 also will help regional partnerships, public bodies, nonprofits and Tribes solve regional rural health care problems and build a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system in response to the pandemic.
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 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.
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