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A rural hospital in Washington state. Photo: Nick Otto/Washington Post via Getty Images

Congress is about to provide $100 billion for hospitals and other health care providers to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus, but small hospitals have no idea how to access those funds — and many need the money immediately.

What they're saying: "A lot of rural hospitals out there need a cash infusion today," Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, told Axios. "How is it going to happen? What is the process? There are way more questions than answers."

Details: The stimulus bill says "the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, on a rolling basis, review applications and make payments" to hospitals and other providers, out of a $100 billion fund.

  • HHS said in a statement that it "is working diligently to ensure needed aid and resources get to our health care providers on the frontlines as quickly as possible," but did not respond to questions about how that process would work.

Between the lines: Many hospitals are part of large, profitable systems that benefit from their area's demographics. The coronavirus will cause them financial distress, but they are not in danger of going under.

  • Rural and safety net hospitals, which treat disproportionate amounts of older and low-income patients, have a lot less wiggle room to call off elective procedures as they wait for a coronavirus surge.
  • Many small hospitals can't get new loans from banks and could miss payroll as soon as next week.

The bottom line: I asked Morgan how this process was supposed to work. "I don't know," he said, "and we are greatly concerned."

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.