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Federal Pandemic Loans Flow To Florida Health Providers

Jul 8, 2020
Originally published on July 8, 2020 9:10 am

More than 4,600 health-care providers in Florida received at least $1.7 billion in interest-free federal loans meant to prevent massive job layoffs, a News Service of Florida review of data released by the federal government shows.

The loans, which went to providers ranging from pediatricians to pharmacists to hospice providers and nearly everything in between, helped keep 200,000 jobs.

The majority of the 4,637 Florida health-care companies included in the data released Monday by the Small Business Association applied for loans in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. Twenty-two companies, though, were awarded loans between $5 million and $10 million, the highest amounts allowable under the Paycheck Protection Program, passed by Congress in April to bolster businesses during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two of the companies awarded $5 million to $10 million were mental-health providers: Alachua-based Meridian Health Care and Fort Lauderdale-based Chrysalis Center Inc. Large medical group practices also went for large loans, including Emergency Physicians of Central Florida in Orlando; Temple Terrace-based Orthopedic Solutions Management; ENT and Allergy Associates in Boca Raton; and Physicians Group Services in Jacksonville.

“Health care took an enormous hit because of COVID,” Jacksonville health care attorney Chris Nuland said Tuesday when asked about the loans. “I certainly encouraged many of my clients to benefit from a loan because their business had been adversely affected to the point that without that money, they would have had to furlough or terminate employees. They were spared those furloughs and terminations because of the PPP funds.”

Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida President and CEO Stephanie Fraim told the News Service that her organization received a $2.2 million loan, which enabled her to keep the 183 people who work at nine health centers across a 22-county region that includes Tampa, Naples  and Orlando.

“Not a single Planned Parenthood employee has gone on the unemployment roll or used any other government resource during COVID. We kept them all employed and provided care. So it was a double-win for us. We did the right thing by keeping our staff employed, and that meant we could provide care during the COVID crisis,” Fraim said, adding that she tapped into the loan money because the organization wasn't authorized to access other funds that were made available for safety-net providers such as clinics and hospitals.

“This was essential to our ability to maintain our staff at the time,” Fraim said of the loans.

But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, an architect of the PPP loans, has contended that Planned Parenthood affiliates may have received money improperly. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the Florida senator contended that Planned Parenthood was bypassing rules that were designed to have the loans go to employers with 500 or fewer employees.

“I urge you to immediately review these loans to ensure the law is being followed and enforced,” Rubio wrote.

Fraim, however, said her organization qualified for the loan and that Rubio “misunderstands the nature of a federated business model.” She said her organization is an independent, non-profit health organization that has a community-based board of directors, similar to organizations such as the United Way and YMCAs across the country.

“This call for an investigation clearly is based of his lack of knowledge about how our organization is structured,” she said.

For its analysis, the News Service reviewed all companies that were classified as health-care related, based on their filings. Loans are grouped into five different ranges: $5 million to $10 million; $2 million to $5 million; $1 million to $2 million; $350,000 to $1 million; and $150, 000 to $350,000.

The News Service of Florida analysis of the amount awarded is based on the lower end of the ranges.