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Updated: November 24, 2021

$130M in new federal pandemic relief will go to 314 Maine health care providers

Nearly $130 million in new federal funding is going to 314 health care providers in Maine to help offset financial difficulties they've experienced during the pandemic.

The money from the Department of Health and Human Services was awarded through its Provider Relief Fund, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living providers, clinics and other health care providers have relied on the fund to help weather the financial difficulties created by the pandemic. In rural areas in particular, the fund has prevented facilities that struggled before and during the pandemic from falling into bankruptcy or closing entirely.

When the pandemic began, an estimated 70% of rural hospitals’ income dried up when patients avoided doctor’s appointments and states halted elective procedures. Almost half of all Maine hospitals — 17 out of 36 — finished last year with a negative operating margin. Four Maine nursing homes announced in September that they would be shutting their doors, displacing more than 100 residents, and many other long-term care facilities are struggling to stay open.

In response, Congress appropriated $178 billion for the Provider Relief Fund last year. Congress also provided an additional $8.5 billion for rural providers. A report by the Government Accountability Office in June, however, criticized HHS for its lack of transparency in distributing funding and revealed that 25% of the provider relief fund remained unspent.

Collins said, “Over the course of the pandemic, numerous Maine health care providers — particularly in rural areas — have told me about the difficulty and expense of paying for additional staff, along with COVID-related facility improvements, personal protective equipment, and other financial challenges. I have also heard from patients of long-term care facilities and their families who have been displaced or fear they may have to move due to nursing home closures."

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