U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is urging the federal government to roll out $100 billion in funding for the nation’s hospitals approved under the recently-passed CARES Act.
Mucarsel-Powell held a virtual news conference Thursday. That’s just one day after Jackson Health System reversed a series of planned pay cuts and furloughs to some staff members, though nurses and physicians were exempt.
That $100 billion pot within the CARES Act was designed to help hospitals avoid reducing staff. Mucarsel-Powell said Thursday that $30 billion of that money is set to be sent out Friday. But she argued the government needs to move quickly to send out the full $100 billion.
“Following the recommended guidelines to cancel elective surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures while dealing with COVID-19, hospitals throughout our districts — including Jackson Memorial Health — are faced with budgetary shortfalls and are facing immense financial stress,” Mucarsel-Powell explained Thursday
“Jackson Memorial is the fourth-largest health care system in the U.S. and we need to make it a priority for them to be able to receive the funds that are going to be disbursed.”
Indeed, the reduction in those nonemergency procedures has impacted hospitals around the country. While Jackson Health’s now-canceled cuts and furloughs did not apply to physicians, Mucarsel-Powell argued that attention needed to be paid to other staff members as well.
“I think that we need to also remember all of the workers and the staff that are keeping these hospitals running,” Mucarsel-Powell said, highlighting janitors, security and several other classes of employees.
“They come to work every day. And they also know that they’re facing significant health risks. But they play such a critical role in keeping our health care facilities running.”
That sentiment was seconded by Jacqui Carmona, the political director AFSCME Florida who was also on Thursday’s call.
“Everybody who works for Jackson Health is essential at the moment,” Carmona said.
“Right now is not the moment to implement any cuts, any furloughs.”
After Carlos Migoya, Chief Executive of Jackson Hospital, originally announced the planned cuts, some local officials urged the state to help fill the fiscal gap while the federal funding was awaiting disbursement.
But Wednesday, Migoya said he was pulling back on the cuts — but only for the time being.
“All the staffing and personnel changes I announced last week, including the furloughs, are being deferred indefinitely,” Migoya wrote in a memo to staff.
“I hope we will be able to cancel these measures entirely as the federal and state responses to COVID-19 move forward. While Jackson always operates on a narrow financial margin, we believe our foundation is strong enough to wait a little longer.”
Mucarsel-Powell called Migoya’s decision “commendable.” Nevertheless, she said she’s continuing to work on two fronts.
First, Mucarsel-Powell is pushing for additional funding beyond the $100 billion in the upcoming stimulus bill being negotiated in Congress.
Second, Mucarsel-Powell wants the $70 billion not being disbursed Friday to be sent out within the next few days.
“I’m urging the [Donald] Trump administration to disburse this funding immediately so hospitals can avoid taking these drastic steps to reduce their payrolls,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
“It’s not just the front line health care doctors. It’s all the staffers, the thousands of workers, that are making sure those hospitals are running. We need to think of them. We need to protect them.”