Oklahoma’s congressional delegation is urging the Trump administration to let public hospitals access funding available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, and Reps. Tom Cole, Kevin Hern, Kendra Horn, Frank Lucas and Markwayne Mullin sent a letter on Friday to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell urging that publicly trusted hospitals be made eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other financial assistance programs.
In Oklahoma, 43 rural hospitals are designated as a public trust, making them ineligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.
"Our rural hospitals are in the perilous position of being on the front line against this public health emergency while also weathering the significant economic challenges and financial strain," the letter read. "In addition, these hospitals often receive no funding from the city or county of which the hospital is owned. These facilities are vital to rural Oklahoma, typically serving as both the largest employer and the only option for inpatient care in their communities."
Under federal guidelines, PPP is available to any business, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, 501(c)(19) veterans’ organization, or tribal business concern with 500 employees or less.
Both for-profit and nonprofit hospitals are eligible for assistance, but public hospitals are not, creating a disparity for Oklahoma’s rural hospitals.
In response to cautionary guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an executive order by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, many hospitals are canceling routine procedures and appointments, resulting in revenue declines as high as 80%.
Over the past decade, 128 hospitals have closed, and an additional 450 hospitals are at risk of closure, especially those in rural areas.