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Shutdown could affect Tomah Health’s plans to open

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is raising concerns that the partial federal government shutdown might impact Tomah Memorial Hospital’s new facility.

Lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on a funding bill for several agencies, including the United States Department of Agriculture. The department’s grants and loans are used to build and enhance rural hospitals, among other purposes.

The proposed hospital, which will be known as Tomah Health when it opens in October, is slated to receive a $35 million from the USDA, according to Eric Prise, the provider’s spokesman.

But the shutdown has prevented USDA officials from signing sign off on documents needed to pay contractors, Prise said.

That means the provider will have to dip into its cash reserves to keep construction on target. They can pull on reserves for at least another four months.

“At that point then, we’ll have to reevaluate where the situation is if the shutdown continues,” he said. “We’ve got everything covered, everything’s on time, everything’s on budget. We’re just faced with what we’re calling a little bit of a dilemma in getting the proper pay applications completed.”

The hospital put $18 million in equity toward the $66 million project and secured $13 million in a tax-exempt loan.

In a Jan. 11 letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Baldwin said she’s heard from constituents that the shutdown is “having a serious impact on our communities,” citing the Tomah hospital.

“The shutdown has seriously jeopardized the progress of the project, which was within six months of completion, as USDA is now unable to authorize payments for construction and the hospital will soon be unable to pay its contractors,” Baldwin wrote. “This delay could result in substantial unanticipated costs and complications.”

The USDA did not return a request for comment on the letter.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Health News daily email newsletter. Sign up for your free trial here.

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