A congressman who represents 30 counties across southern Missouri thanks the Trump Administration for reversing decisions involving rural hospitals and telehealth.

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, speaks to a community member at Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Festus in 2016 (file photo courtesy of Congressman Smith’s office)

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, describes the two reversals as major wins for rural Missouri and rural America.

The first decision involves rural hospitals and the CARES Act’s paycheck protection program (PPP). Smith says rural hospitals were not originally eligible for the program.

Now they are.

“When you’re looking at rural community hospitals such as those in Potosi, Ironton, Houston, Salem, Ste. Gen (Ste. Genevieve), they will be impacted now that they can participate in this program,” Smith says.

The Small Business Administration’s PPP is a forgivable loan that’s aimed at keeping employees on the payroll, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith says health care professionals and business leaders in his district say that’s critical.

Congressman Smith’s district has seen five hospital closings since 2016. Impacted towns have included Poplar Bluff, Farmington and Doniphan.

Smith is also praising federal health officials, for expanding telehealth to allow care to be administered over the phone. He says the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reversed its earlier rule requiring telehealth to have audio and video.

“In southeast Missouri, a lot of folks don’t have internet, don’t have broadband … and they’re being told to stay at home and not come to hospitals but they still need to talk to their doctors,” says Smith.

Smith learned about the issue during COVID-19 conference calls with health care providers and business leaders in his district, and says he passed the concerns along to the Trump Administration.

He says the administration is willing to listen, adding that it “is making a big difference for southern Missourians.”

Smith’s massive district covers 20,000 square miles, from Jefferson County all the way to the Bootheel. It also includes part of the I-44 corridor, and extends into southwest Missouri.

The district includes Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Kennett, West Plains and Ava.

Smith, who serves as the GOP Conference Secretary on Capitol Hill, tells Missourinet that his constituents want to re-open the country.

While he emphasizes that safety is the top priority, he says his constituents want the district to be the leader for the nation, in re-opening the country for business.

“We’re in such a rural area, over 20,000 square miles that covers the 8th congressional district in Missouri, we know how to social distance ourselves,” Smith says.

Congressman Smith voted for the bipartisan COVID-19 legislation in Washington in late April. It contains $75 billion for personal protective equipment for health care employees, and another $25 billion to expand testing.

Smith also praises President Donald Trump for quickly approving Governor Mike Parson’s request for a major disaster declaration. Smith says the administration has assisted more than 46,000 small businesses in Missouri during the pandemic, “to the tune of $7.5 billion.”

Click here to listen to the full seven-minute interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, which was recorded on May 5, 2020:

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