By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Alabama hospitals had more than $830 million in unreimbursed expenses related to COVID-19 care from March 2021 to March 2022, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.
The association early this year was tasked by lawmakers with distributing to hospitals $40 million of the state’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“We had an excess of $800 million that were submitted just for that one-year time period that qualified under U.S. Treasury (Department) guidelines, directly related to treated patients, that had not been reimbursed or otherwise provided for in any funding,” Danne Howard, deputy director of the association, said Thursday to the legislative committee overseeing the state’s more than $2 billion in ARPA spending.
She said those costs, incurred more than a year after the first COVID-19 cases in the state, included staff overtime and supplies. Howard thanked lawmakers for the allocation.
“I only bring (the $800 million) up to say that was bailing water out of the ocean to help some of the hospitals stay afloat,” Howard said.
The funds were distributed to more than 100 hospitals based on a formula that included their number of beds.
Separately, about 55 rural hospitals, as defined by the federal government, received a combined $30 million in ARPA funds.
Some hospitals received funds from both allocations.
Howard also said lawmakers will likely hear from their local hospitals as the legislators decide, likely next year, what to do with the second tranche of state ARPA funding, about $1.1 billion.
Lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey in January also awarded $40 million to nursing homes around the state. Brandon Farmer, president of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, told lawmakers’ his members’ uncompensated COVID-related costs in 2021 exceeded that amount.
“We’re still seeing cases and seeing expenses change.” Farmer said about the pandemic.
Lawmakers also questioned the Alabama Department of Environmental Management about its process for distributing several pools of federal money for water and sewer projects around the state. Last week, Alabama Daily News reported that municipalities around the state had requested more than $3.1 billion — more than is available — for about 600 projects.
Lance LeFleur, director of ADEM, said the agency is trying to balance the needs of areas with dire utility situations while also taking into account the needs of growing areas.
“We’re in triage mode, trying to find the ones with the most critical need,” LeFleur said.
Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Daphne, asked why no water systems in Baldwin County, one of the fastest growing in the state, had yet been allocated any funds.
LeFleur said that while fast-growing areas are in the mix, “we’re trying to get to the worst first.”
Lawmakers also heard from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which is currently weighing applications for $85 million in broadband infrastructure grants.