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Hospital industry said it needed four times as much to stay afloat after state halted elective surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment during pandemic.

COURTESY PHOTO: LYNNE TERRY/THE LUND REPORT - Oregon's rural hospitals say they will need at least $200 million to stay afloat. The state is providing $50 million in emergency aid.State leaders are considering a proposal to give rural Oregon hospitals a $50 million line of credit to stay in business during the pandemic.

That will not go very far. The hospital industry said a month ago they needed four times as much — $200 million — to stay afloat after the state halted elective surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment during the pandemic. The Legislature's Joint Emergency Board is expected to vote Thursday on the proposal, which would allow 24 critical access hospitals in rural areas to apply for loans. The money would come from the CARES Act — the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The federal government granted Oregon $2.45 billion under CARES to compensate local and state government agencies, housing and transportation programs, childcare, airports and other sectors for coronavirus-linked expenses. Gov Kate Brown's office is playing an instrumental role in allocating the money.

The Oregon Business Development Department would oversee the loans and hospitals could use the money to cover payroll costs. Under the proposal, hospitals would not be required to repay the loans until after they return to normal operations.

Oregon hospitals, especially in rural areas, are struggling to survive amid the pandemic. continues. They've suffered declining revenues with the ban on profitable elective procedures, losing millions of dollars a week, records obtained by The Lund Report show. Hospitals faced $200 million in operating losses in March, according to estimates the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems shared with lawmakers on Tuesday, April 21.

This Lund Report story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

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