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USDA allocates $1.2 million to northern Michigan healthcare providers

Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Three northern Michigan healthcare providers have been awarded funds from the USDA to relieve financial burdens sustained during the pandemic.

The $1.2 million dollars are coming from a program within the American Rescue Plan to help expand rural healthcare operations.

Munson Healthcare in Grayling, the Otsego County Ambulance Corp, and the Munising Memorial Hospital Association are the most recent recipients of the funds.

Brandon Fewins is the Michigan State Director for USDA Rural Development.

He says many rural health care providers suffered financial losses during the pandemic.

Costs like PPE, vaccine clinics and testing placed financial stress on many rural healthcare providers.

"Just from basic PPE, testing all those items, you know, it really put a financial crunch on our providers in so we need to step up and try to assist them to make sure that they're able to still conduct the day-to-day operations," said Fewins.

Fewins mentioned the pandemic helped improve aspects of rural healthcare like telemedicine, but there is still a lot to do.

"But I think the pandemic has really shown us that we took it to a whole different level. And looking at  what we need to do, we also need to make sure that we build out that broadband infrastructure," said Fewins.

Fewins says the application period for health care providers to apply for grants is still open through Michigan’s USDA office.

Rick Brewer is a general assignment reporter covering central and northern Michigan for WCMU Public Radio.