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The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority has approved a $450 million emergency loan program to assist financially distressed hospitals as they work to address the COVID-19 outbreak, according to state Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, and state Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, who are both PennVEST board members.

“This PennVEST funding we approved … is an aggressive approach in a time of crisis. We must do all we can to keep our hospital network strong and prepared during the time it is needed most. The coronavirus outbreak created a severe financial problem for hospitals in urban and rural areas,” said Pittman in a news release. “They have seen increases in critical care cases and steep declines in most other operations and that impacts their bottom line. Urban hospitals may be accustomed to higher patient numbers, but this virus has stretched their capacity. For smaller facilities, like those in my district, even a relatively lower number of COVID-19 patients can play havoc with their operations and their budgets.”

“The investment we approved … is intended to be a lifeline for Pennsylvania’s struggling hospitals,” said Oberlander. “We have heard their concerns, and while this funding is somewhat of a departure from the projects typically supported by PennVEST, it does help with a different type of critical community and healthcare infrastructure by keeping hospital doors open.”

Hospitals will be eligible to apply for low-interest loans of up to $10 million under the Hospital Emergency Loan Program (HELP). The loan is intended to provide short-term financial relief for hospitals until federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security funding is available.

The HELP application period is expected to run from April 13 to 20, and hospitals should submit their requests through the Department of Community & Economic Development’s Electronic Single Application for Assistance. Applications will be evaluated based on specific criteria, including size and location of the hospital, its financial need, and the impact of COVID-19 on its operations.