Federal assistance through the CARES Act is making its way to Montana health centers to help combat the costs of the COVID 19 epidemic. The funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA.
Montana is entitled to $9.1 million to support 14 health centers across the state. According to HRSA, that money must be put to use to prevent, respond to or prepare for the novel coronavirus.
"So that’s a pretty broad mandate and we’re just digging into the kinds of things that we can do, the kinds of things that we can spend money on that meet those intentions."
Mary Sterhan is the Executive Director for the Flathead Community Health Center in Kalispell.
"Everything from scrubs to the emergency shelter, to staffing, to things we that can do with tele-health, those are all on our list of things that we’re looking at."
Flathead County is getting nearly $700,000 of coronavirus aid.
Sterhan says that as of Wednesday, the funding is available and will be used in the short term to reimburse for expenses already incurred, or to pay for imminent needs without the available cash flow.
The federal health agency is requiring state health centers to track and account for their coronavirus relief funding, which is accessible for 12 months and may be retroactively applied to costs dating back to the end of January.
Sterhan says the funding should be able to cover costs in the short term, but it will be difficult to anticipate how long the effects of the virus last.
She also pointed out that access to personal protective equipment continues to be a concern for the health centers.
"That’s still an ongoing need and one, frankly, that funding isn’t honestly going to help us with because it’s more of a question of access than it is being able to pay for it."
Sterhan says patient visits at clinics in Kalispell is down but outreach to prevent further spread of the virus remains important.