May 01, 2020
LEWISTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Angus King (I-ME) took action today to protect access to health care and preserve important economic drivers in rural Maine. The lawmakers pressed Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza to amend her agency’s yet-to-be finalized Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) rules to make non-profit critical access hospitals currently undergoing Chapter 11 reorganization, like Calais Regional Hospital and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, eligible for PPP relief. Senator Collins, a member of the Small Business Coronavirus Task Force, co-authored the PPP.
Due to their Chapter 11 status, the two critical access hospitals had their applications for PPP aid automatically rejected last month, as COVID-19 continues to increase their costs and limit their revenue. Absent relief, reports indicate both hospitals may be forced to close within months.
“We strongly urge the agency to amend this interim final rule to enable these vital health care institutions to receive PPP loans to help them remain operational when they are needed the most,” wrote the Members of Congress. “While these entities are few in number, they are vitally important to the communities they serve, both as frontline health care providers during this public health emergency and as anchor institutions that provide the paychecks and local economic stability that Congress intended this program to preserve. These institutions need temporary financial assistance to weather sharp revenue decreases that have resulted from federal and state instructions to cancel elective medical procedures as part of COVID-19 response preparedness.”
Calais Regional Hospital and Penobscot Valley Hospital are both critical access hospitals, a narrow designation for smaller facilities that provide frontline care to patients in rural areas who would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive care.
Both facilities are also undergoing chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations. SBA issued an interim final rule on April 24th stating that no bankrupt entities will receive PPP funds. Recognizing that critical access hospitals are essential to both public health and local economies in many rural areas across the country, Golden, Collins, and King’s letter urges Administrator Carranza to amend her agency’s PPP rule to create a narrow exception allowing for applications from non-profit critical access hospitals in chapter 11 bankruptcy status.
Read a copy of the letter here.