Nordberg, Lea: Small Business Administration extends economic lifeline to rural healthcare providers

Nordberg, Lea: Small Business Administration extends economic lifeline to rural healthcare providers

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Each year during National Hospital Week, communities across America come together to celebrate the workers and institutions that dedicate themselves to maintaining public health. This year, we’re even more aware of the sacrifices these people and businesses make, especially in times of crisis.

In many of Wyoming’s hometowns and throughout our nation, hospitals and health institutions are community pillars. Often, 20 percent of a rural community’s economy is directly tied to a local hospital.

Many of these businesses already operate within tight financial margins, and a recent loss of revenue due to the virus has stretched already-thin budgets to their breaking point. As a result, communities are faced with the threat of losing local health institutions, which could result in families driving additional hours for mandatory health needs and jobs disappearing from our hometowns.

As part of the Payment Protection Program, the Small Business Administration has taken unprecedented action to extend an economic lifeline to Wyoming’s rural health businesses and workers. By making nonprofit hospitals eligible for forgivable loans, leveraged through the power of private vendors, SBA is providing the capital and certainty health organizations need to retain employees and continue services.

Take Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital in Thermopolis, for example.

“Hot Springs County Hospital District is the sole provider of health care in Hot Springs County, and is comprised of a critical access hospital, rural health clinic and surgical clinic. A not-for-profit District with dual status 501c3 with 160 employees, we are one of the major employers in the county,” said Margie Molitor, CEO, Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital. “Rural communities have a special relationship with their hospitals. We need each other to survive and thrive. Without accessible healthcare, the community is not able to recruit business and workers to a community. With the elimination of elective surgeries, we saw a 60 percent reduction in our revenue in April alone, causing grave concerns for our cash flow and dire projections for the future. We have worked very hard over many years to recruit the 160 highly qualified employees to our community.

“The prospect of furloughing workers to reduce operational expense was something we needed to avoid if at all possible. We worked with our local Pinnacle Bank to secure the SBA PPP, which stabilized our cash flow and allowed us to maintain our workforce without furloughs, and we are prepared to care for our community needs now and in the future.”

There is still more than $100 billion in assistance available for Wyoming’s rural businesses, health care providers, farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and faith-based groups. These funds are critical to retaining employees, aiding payments on essential bills and reducing economic injury.

During this National Hospital Week, we are reminded that America’s hospitals and businesses have the grit and tenacity that make them strong. As we all weather this storm, the SBA will continue using all available resources to clear hurdles for Wyoming’s hospitals and business owners. For additional resources on programs and resources in your community, visit www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection.

Dan Nordberg serves as the SBA’s Director of Rural Affairs and Region VIII Administrator based in Denver. He oversees the agency’s programs and services in Colorado, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Amy Lea serves as the SBA’s Wyoming District Director in Casper. She oversees the agency’s programs and services in the state.

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