WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make significant funding available through Emergency Rural Health Care grants to help rural health care facilities, tribes, and communities expand access to coronavirus vaccines, health care services, and nutrition assistance.
“Strengthening access to quality health care in rural areas is crucial to the success and prosperity of our state,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This federal funding will make a big difference by providing medical equipment, telehealth services, food assistance, and coronavirus vaccines to those in our rural communities. As we round the corner of this pandemic, I’ll continue working to ensure all Minnesotans can receive the care and services they need.”
“This is how we advance our commitment to improving access to health care in rural areas. With this new funding, rural health care providers will be able to develop their infrastructure, and contribute to a resilient community,” said Sen. Smith, a member of both the Senate Health and Ag Committees and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus. “I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Vilsack and the Biden Administration to pursue a comprehensive investment in rural communities.”
“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is playing a critical role to help rural America build back better and equitably as the nation continues to respond to the pandemic,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Through the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, USDA will help rural hospitals and local communities increase access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing, medical supplies, telehealth, and food assistance, and support construction or renovation of rural health care facilities. These investments will also help improve the long-term viability of rural health care providers across the nation.”
Recovery Grants are available to help public bodies, nonprofit organizations, and tribes provide immediate coronavirus relief to support rural hospitals, health care clinics, and local communities. These funds may be used to increase coronavirus vaccine distribution and telehealth capabilities, purchase medical supplies, replace revenue lost during the pandemic, build and rehabilitate temporary or permanent structures for health care services, support staffing needs for vaccine administration and testing, and support facility and operations expenses associated with food banks and food distribution facilities. Recovery Grant applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funds are expended.
Impact Grants are also available to 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. Impact Grant applications must be submitted to your local USDA Rural Development State Office by 4:00 p.m. local time on October 12, 2021.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Sens. Klobuchar and Smith have worked to improve and increase access to health care in rural communities.
In December, Sen. Klobuchar fought to put in place a federal distribution strategy to ensure health care systems and pharmacies in rural communities would be able to distribute and administer coronavirus vaccines. She has also advocated to increase the number of health care providers in rural communities, and in May introduced legislation to allow international doctors to remain in the U.S. upon completing their residency under the condition that they practice in areas experiencing doctor shortages.
As Chair of the Rural Development Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, Sen. Smith has made it her goal to highlight the contributions of rural places in Washington. She also understands that small towns and rural communities face unique challenges, and she has long worked to address these challenges. Sen. Smith successfully worked to secure $500 million for the Community Facilities Program to help rural hospitals respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen their operations moving forward, including by expanding telehealth access, strengthening the health care workforce, and expanding nutrition assistance. Sen. Smith has also pushed for advancing telehealth during and beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency period. Sen. Smith worked on a bipartisan measure—enacted as part of the CARES Act—to reform rural health grants, and she worked across the aisle on her Helping Rural Hospitals Hit by COVID-19 Act to help ease the financial strain faced by rural hospitals as they have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. This provision was enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.