Two Maine hospitals that were on the brink of bankruptcy were granted eligibility for a stimulus program this month. The Penobscot Valley Hospital and Calais Regional Hospital would have been forced to close their doors in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic if they hadn’t been approved by courts for Paycheck Protection Program funding. 

That approval was only temporary, but Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) is working to change that.

On May 7, Golden introduced legislation that would make all U.S. non-profit “critical access” hospitals, like the Penobscot Valley and Calais Regional Hospital, permanently eligible for small business relief under the PPP.

 “The government shouldn’t be putting up barriers for these hospitals — and other struggling non-profit critical access hospitals across the country — to access the relief funds they need to keep their doors open and their workers employed during the coronavirus crisis,”  said Golden,.

Before the pandemic, Calais Regional Hospital CEO Rod Boula said more than half of rural hospitals were struggling financially.

“The National Rural Health Association estimates that over 500 small rural hospitals will close in the next year nationwide,” Boula said in a release. While appreciative of the temporary approval, Boula also stressed the need for a permanent solution.

“Our hospital is important to public health and the economy in our community. We are the largest employer in our community and contribute to an approximate $38 million in economic impact per year,” said Boula.  “Rep. Golden and the delegation’s letter was extremely helpful in the decision made to allow CRH to participate in the PPP. Even though we have this temporary win in the courts, a permanent solution is really needed.”

Both hospitals had previously sought $1.5 million dollars through the PPP but were denied due to a rule that bars applicants who have filed for bankruptcy. The hospitals had previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to restructure their millions of dollars worth of debt. 

Golden’s bill would create a narrow loophole in the SBA’s eligibility requirements for the PPP that would allow non-profit hospitals undergoing chapter 11 bankruptcy to be designated as ‘critical access’. These hospitals in smaller, rural communities would be eligible to receive funds. 

“We appreciate the extraordinary work that this bill by Congressman Golden is releasing, to find a legislative-path solution for critical access hospitals in a chapter 11 bankruptcy process, like Penobscot Valley Hospital, to receive PPP funding,” said CEO Crystal Landry.