By: Steve Herring
The Goldsboro News-Argus

Home Health and Hospice Care will be able to use a $288,000 N.C. Rural Economic Development Center grant for its $4 million Kitty Askins Hospice Center expansion project.

The Rural Health Care Initiative grant actually goes to the county, which in turn will loan it to Home Health and Hospice Care. The loan is forgivable after two years, provided job creation goals are met.

Kitty Askins was built in 1995, and the expansion will add 13,000 square feet to the facility and will double its occupancy to 24 beds. More than $2.6 million has been raised in the $4 million capital campaign.

Wayne County commissioners agreed in April to support the grant application and to administer it as well.

The grant total includes a 3 percent local match of $8,640 of in-kind services, as well. The county will administer the grant and will be able to apply the cost of doing so as the local match.

“We are happy to report that with the expansion of Kitty Atkins Hospice Center, we will be adding an additional 24 jobs in Wayne County,” Dean Lee, chief executive officer and president of Home Health and Hospice Care, told commissioners this week. “A lot of those jobs will be high-skilled nursing jobs.

Lee said the expansion project had been able to “recover a lot of ground in the last month or so” and is now 60 percent complete.

Nov. 20 is the scheduled completion date, he added.

The new jobs include nurses, nursing assistants and administrative personnel, he said.

Job creation is what made the project eligible for the grant program that the General Assembly created to stimulate economic development and job creation in distressed areas for the construction and/or renovation of health care facilities.

It awards $12,000 for each job created, up to a total of $480,000.

The grant does carry some stipulations — it must be matched by at least an equal amount of private and/or public funds, and the job creation goals must be met and verified before the loans are forgiven.

Also, the local government unit, in this case, the county, must provide cash or in-kind services equal to 3 percent of the grant.

The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop sound economic strategies that improve the quality of life in rural North Carolina, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. The center operates a multifaceted program that includes conducting research into rural issues; testing promising rural development strategies; advocating for policy and program innovations; and building the productive capacity of rural leaders, entrepreneurs and community organizations.