Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that the state will allocated $10 million in "Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants" to support hospitals that could face financial hardships due to the novel coronavirus pandemic in the state.
The funds are capped at $500,000 per hospital and applications are now live at this website, according to a news release. The application will be open for a month or until funds run out, the release states.
"Small and rural hospitals are critical to fighting COVID-19 and these grants will help complement federal aid dollars to ensure hospitals can continue delivering care through this crisis," Lee said in a statement. "These organizations not only provide care for existing needs but are also a key part of our efforts to build and maintain bed capacity during the expected surge of COVID-19 cases."
The Tennessee Hospital Association issued a statement stating these grants will help "stabilize revenues and ensure continued operation through the current public health crisis."
"It's no secret Tennessee's rural hospitals have faced significant financial challenges for several years. As all hospitals confront the COVID-19 pandemic, these facilities have been hit particularly hard by steep reductions in already limited volume and revenue due to the delay of elective procedures in accordance with state and federal guidance," said Wendy Long, THA President and CEO, in statement.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, had a different opinion of the grants, though. He took to Twitter Monday and wrote that the grants were a "direct result of [Gov. Lee] & GOP supermajority's stubborn refusal to accept BILLIONS for Medicaid expansion."
Coronavirus is straining health care systems across the globe, and although Chattanooga has yet to reach its peak number of cases, the pandemic's effect can already be felt in hospitals across the region.
Even with current social distancing measures enacted and sustained, the peak demand for hospital services in the U.S. due to COVID-19 is likely to "exceed capacity substantially," according to an analysis published Thursday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Tennessee faith, labor, health groups urge Gov. Lee to free local governments to address COVID-19 crisis