In other words, hospitals in those counties received the same amount of funding as counties with less health and financial needs, according to the research letter published in the medical journal JAMA on Friday.
In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act was passed, which included $175 billion in relief funding for hospitals and health care providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus response. In a statement emailed to CNN on Monday, a spokesperson for the US Department of Health and Human Services said that HHS “has distributed funds in a data-driven manner” based on the impact of Covid-19.

For the new research letter, researchers from Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley, examined how Covid-19 relief funding gets allocated in the United States, and measured how the allocation relates to the health and financial needs of counties. The researchers also projected anticipated relief funding for Medicare-participating entities, modeling allocations to hospitals using cost reports from 2015.

The researchers found that the allocation of funds ​showed a stronger correlation with past hospital revenues than the actual Covid-19 burden in a given county.

“Tying relief funding to revenue resulted in allocations largely unrelated to health or financial needs. It also meant disproportionately Black communities received the same level of relief funding as counties with less health and financial need,” the researchers wrote.

Across 3,124 counties, the average relief funding per resident was $411, the researchers found. While disproportionately Black counties received $126 more funding than other counties, the researchers found that “among counties receiving the same funding, disproportionately Black counties had higher COVID-19 burden,” the researchers wrote.

The research had some limitations, including that it relied primarily on the estimated disbursement of relief funding based on the allocation formula rather than the actual disbursement.

A HHS spokesperson noted in the statement to CNN on Monday that the department also has distributed funds directly to hospitals treating the most Covid-19 patients, hospitals in rural areas and nursing facilities.

“HHS acted swiftly to deliver urgently needed funding to our frontline healthcare providers. In less than 30 days of the CARES Act becoming law, HHS provided relief to over 1 million providers and delivered $62 billion in 40 days. We are continuing to distribute funding to providers that need relief,” the statement said in part.

“In choosing to act quickly, HHS adopted revenue as a measure of how to distribute funds across health care facilities and providers of different sizes and types. While other approaches were considered, these would have taken much longer to implement,” the statement continued. “While Congress did not direct HHS to determine the financial strength of each recipient, HHS is acutely aware of the financial hardship many facilities and providers are facing.”

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