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New low-interest loan program supports rural hospitals

Kentucky hospitals eligible for funds to upgrade and maintain critical infrastructure.
Kentucky hospitals eligible for funds to upgrade and maintain critical infrastructure.(AP)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 4:08 PM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. - Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the Kentucky Rural Hospital Loan Program (KRHLP) is making $20 million in low-interest loans available to assist rural hospitals across the commonwealth.

The funds administered will directly impact the 1.8 million Kentuckians living in rural areas by maintaining or upgrading hospital facilities, retaining or increasing the current staff of the rural hospital and providing health care services not currently available to citizens.

“Hospitals are a cornerstone of rural communities and a key contributor to economic development,” said Gov. Beshear. “Our goal is to create a better Kentucky for all of our residents, and that starts by investing in one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure: our rural hospitals. This innovative loan program is the latest advancement in our work to ensure every Kentuckian across all 120 counties has access to the high-quality health care services they need, close to home. I look forward to seeing this program’s impact for generations to come.”

Any hospital located within a Kentucky county with a population of less than 50,000 is eligible to apply for the KRHLP program. To qualify for financing, a rural hospital must request funds to maintain or upgrade the existing facilities, the current staffing or the services available to rural citizens.

Eligible hospitals can receive a loan amount ranging from $25,000 to $1 million per hospital facility with a 1% fixed interest rate.

KRHLP was created during the 2020 Regular Session of the General Assembly. The Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) will administer the revolving loan fund program.

Interested applicants should review the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Kentucky hospital directory by county to confirm their status as a rural hospital within the state. The additional loan requirements and application process are now available to view on the Cabinet’s Kentucky business incentives webpage.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander noted the importance of continued support for health care facilities throughout the state.

“Rural hospitals have unique challenges in keeping their infrastructure updated. These challenges put undue financial pressure on all rural hospitals, and this fund is an important beginning to provide the necessary support to keep these hospitals relevant and open,” Secretary Friedlander said. “The onset of the global pandemic only emphasized their importance. Getting medical attention, and quickly, is often critical for Kentuckians. The more our hospitals are supported, the more we are able to sustain or improve access to care. We applaud this support to our hospitals.”

State Rep. Danny Bentley, of Russell, sponsored legislation during the most recent regular session that led to the creation of KRHLP.

“As a pharmacist in rural Kentucky, I see firsthand the daily struggle our people go through because of limited access to health care,” Rep. Bentley said. “Three years ago we began working on this loan program because we knew it could provide the support our rural hospitals need. I’m proud to have crafted and carried this measure and appreciate that my colleagues in the House and Senate passed it and the Governor signed it into law.”

Today’s announcement is the latest step the Governor has taken to support local hospitals throughout the pandemic.

In June 2020, Gov. Beshear and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell announced $383 million in state and federal dollars for 54 rural hospitals by settling a 13-year-old dispute regarding Medicaid funding rates.

In January 2021, Gov. Beshear announced Kentucky hospitals would receive an additional $800 million to $1 billion annually to help advance the quality of care of Medicaid members and provide a stable base for hospitals that will extend beyond the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHFS received approval from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on a new directed payment initiative that increases inpatient Medicaid payments for Kentucky hospitals.

Just last month, the Governor said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commonwealth has provided $1.8 billion in additional dollars for hospitals, primarily in extra Medicaid reimbursements.

The administration is helping hospitals with more than 325 Kentucky National Guard members across the commonwealth assisting health care heroes as they fight COVID-19. In addition, 28 hospitals are receiving nursing student support from Galen College of Nursing, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and regional Kentucky Community and Technical College System campuses.

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