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U.S. Department of Agriculture Establishes New Program to Support Rural Health Care Providers, Invests $2.9 Million in Minnesota

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date
Apr 14, 2022

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Includes $500 Million Funding to Expand Access to Health Care for Rural America

ST. PAUL, Minn., April 14, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Colleen Landkamer 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 $2.9 million and will benefit more than 79,000 people who live and work in rural Minnesota. Awardees include 9 rural health care organizations and community groups across more than 20 rural cities and townships.

“In the wake of a two-year pandemic, our nation is in need of opportunities for economic regrowth and infrastructure rehabilitation,” Landkamer said. “USDA has continued to provide these opportunities through various channels, including mobilizing staff and resources to respond to improving the long-term viability of rural health care providers and services across the nation. Today’s investments through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants program address a variety of immediate health care needs for rural areas, including ensuring that every person and family has access to high-quality health care.”

The grants USDA is awarding 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.

 For example:

  • Appleton Area Health will use a $174,300 grant to upgrade telehealth and telemedicine capabilities and replace hospital equipment. Funds will be used to purchase and install 28 flat panel television monitors with cameras for clinic exam rooms and hospital patient rooms. This project will also help to purchase and install an air conditioning unit for the laboratory, four new hospital beds and five powered air-purifying respirators. This project will benefit more than 1,400 people in the city of Appleton and rural communities in Swift and Lac Qui Parle counties.
  • The Mille Lacs Health System will use a $1 million grant to reimburse the hospital for revenue lost in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This facility provides inpatient, outpatient, emergency care and physician services to people in the cities of Hillman, Isle, Garrison, Milaca and Onamia.
  • CentraCare Health – Long Prairie will use a $99,500 grant to replace the air handling unit for the nursing home/long-term care facility. The current unit will be replaced with a high efficiency unit with both cooling and filtration capabilities that helps to reduce airborne infectious aerosol exposure, minimizing airborne health effects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Hendricks Community Hospital Association & Retirement Home will use a $35,700 grant to replace two heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) units in the nursing home facility. Experiencing two COVID-19 outbreaks in the past year, this new equipment will help to enhance filtration and air quality of the facility, reducing the transmission of illness for the 1,272 residents in the cities of Hendricks and Ivanhoe.
  • Lakewood Health System will use a $733,300 grant to meet unforeseen financial needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With nearly 40,000 residents across five counties in the service area, the Lakewood has had to use the Mayo Health Laboratory for COVID testing supplies to collect and analyze specimens, package and ship samples, and receive test results via a secure virtual portal. This project will help to cover the costs incurred from utilizing this service and to support staffing needed to administer COVID-19 testing.
  • Cook-Orr Health Care District will use a $488,300 grant to make heating ventilation and air-conditioning system in 15 rooms of Cook Hospital. Project funds will also help to convert seven hospital rooms to negative air pressure. All improvements will help to elevate the air quality and mitigate the spread of airborne illnesses.

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 up to $500 million in 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.

Today’s investments are part of a larger announcement made recently by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the Department is investing $43 million to benefit 2.2 million people who live and work in rural America. Total number of nationwide awardees include 93 rural health care organizations and community groups across 22 states: Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

USDA will announce additional awardees for Emergency Rural Health Care Grants in the coming weeks and months.

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/mn. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit the GovDelivery subscriber page.