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State lawmakers on Friday approved the disbursal of more than $16 million in federal aid for four rural Arkansas hospitals.
The funds come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which covers costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Arkansas initially received more than $1.5 billion in ARPA funding, and legislators set aside $60 million in August 2022 as emergency relief for struggling hospitals.
The Arkansas Legislative Council gave final approval to the following awards Friday:
- $4,589,119 to Baxter Health in Mountain Home
- $5,000,000 to Fulton County Hospital in Salem
- $3,301,356 to Arkansas Methodist Medical Center in Paragould
- $3,441,839 to Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville
The four hospitals are among 18 that the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal evaluated to determine whether they are eligible for ARPA funds. The state hired the firm to help legislators decide how to prioritize hospitals’ requests for the dwindling supply of federal pandemic relief funds.
Friday’s approval of these four awards brings the total number of rural Arkansas hospitals receiving ARPA aid to seven. Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden received $6 million in September 2022, Sevier County Medical Center in De Queen received $6.5 million in December 2022, and Drew Memorial Health System in Monticello received $5 million in June of this year.
Sevier County Medical Center’s funding award came from a different subset of ARPA funds, while the other six awards have come from the $60 million lawmakers set aside.
ALC on Friday also approved a motion by chair Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, to request that the Legislative Joint Audit Executive Committee expedite an audit to ensure that hospitals receiving specifically designated ARPA funds are in compliance with state cybersecurity standards.
PEER approved a motion to request the audit on Tuesday.
If the request is approved in November, an evaluation of these hospitals’ ability to protect patient data will occur “sometime within the next two to four weeks,” Department of Finance and Administration Deputy Director Andy Babbitt said Tuesday.
Ouachita County Medical Center is exempt from the cybersecurity evaluation because it received ARPA funds under a previous administration, Babbitt said.
Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. This article was published with permission from the Arkansas Advocate. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and Twitter.