USDA awards $110M to 208 providers, organizations addressing rural healthcare

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $110 million in grants to improve the infrastructure of hospitals and clinics in rural communities.

According to the administration, the American Rescue Plan Act funds are being awarded to 208 organizations serving nearly 5 million people in 43 states and Guam.

“The [American Rescue 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 wrote in its announcement.

For provider organization recipients, the government said funds would support building out telehealth and nutrition assistance programs, staffing for COVID-19 vaccination and testing, facility construction or renovation, and medical supply purchases.

The money will also help non-provider organizations, nonprofits, public bodies, regional partnerships and Tribes with efforts working toward building “a stronger, more sustainable rural health care system in response to the pandemic,” USDA said.

The announcement highlighted three grant awards as specific examples of how the funds will be used to support rural communities:

  • A $1 million grant to New Hampshire’s Families Flourish Northeast to renovate a residential treatment center addressing a rise in substance-use disorders among mothers in three local counties
  • A $51,700 grant to Minnesota’s Kittson Memorial Hospital to renovate its clinical exam room and nurse’s station as well as to build an isolation room and reduce the spread of infectious diseases
  • A $467,900 grant to Virginia’s Appalachian Sustainable Development to expand food pantries’ distribution services

“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,” USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small said in the announcement. “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 healthcare services like urgent care, primary care and dental care.”

Rural communities have been primary beneficiaries of American Rescue Plan support. In August, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services announced $46 million from the bill would make up the bulk of new investments into the rural workforce.

Lawmakers also recently extended a pair of key funding programs supporting rural hospitals through December.