The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently accepting applications for Emergency Rural Health Care (ERHC) program grants to help communities with populations under 20,000 expand healthcare access. The American Rescue Plan Act (P.L. 117-2) allocated $500 million for ERHC program grants to rural nonprofits, local and tribal governments. Applicants are available to apply for grants to address the COVID-19 pandemic through two tracks:
- Recovery Grants for immediate healthcare needs, future pandemic preparation or to support food assistance; and
- Impact Grants for long-term solutions to solve regional health care problems
Applications are due by 4 pm on October 12, although USDA will accept applications for Recovery Grants until funds are expended. Counties are directly eligible to apply and should contact their local Rural Development office. The USDA has provided answers to FAQs about the ERHC. The agency is utilizing the 2010 Decennial Census data, meaning nearly 1300 counties are eligible to apply for funding under the ERHC program.
Rural counties are eligible to receive $25,000-$1 million grants through the Recovery Grants track. Funds can be used for a several uses to respond to the pandemic, including purchasing a new ambulance, renovating a facility to support expanded services, purchase equipment and supplies for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing, increase telehealth capabilities or equipment and supplies for nutritional assistance needs. The time frame in which funds can be used will depend on the specific grant request but will not exceed three years after award. Through the Impact Grants Track, rural counties may receive $5-$10 million grants to establish a regional healthcare partnership, develop best practices, or provide technical assistance for one or more aspects of project implementation. All awards are limited to cover up to 75% of project costs based on the population and median household income of the community served. Track Two grant period will begin no earlier than January 1, 2022.
Counties recognize the vital role that healthcare plays in rural America and support strengthening the healthcare delivery system in rural America, including ambulatory services. Counties also support initiatives to enhance rural health research and initiatives that integrate the efforts of multiple health disciplines in an approach to promote total health and well-being. NACo created its COVID-19 Recovery Clearinghouse to feature critical resources for counties, including allocation estimation, examples of county programs using federal coronavirus relief funds, the latest news and more. NACo will keep members updated on rural health care developments.