The Coronavirus is turning out to be the cause of the biggest economic decline we’ve seen in a long time. On top of placing immense stress on the healthcare system, the virus has left all but the most essential businesses shut down. Millions of Americans have already lost their jobs, and experts say it may take a while to get the economy back on track.
The state of Illinois has found a way to keep its rural pharmacies afloat during the crisis, and cannabis plays a big hand in it. Over time, the state has built up a rainy day fund, totaling $946 million, using funds from cannabis sales taxes. These funds will be used to keep rural pharmacies, which may be the only ones within miles, afloat during the coronavirus crisis.
Last month, Illinois State Comptroller Susan Mendoza announced that the state would release nearly $1 million to critical access pharmacies that serve rural communities. “Our ongoing effort to support rural competition and managed care policies now takes on added importance as communities fight the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus,” she said in a March 19 press release.
Rural pharmacies that receive low reimbursements from the state’s managed care pharmacies are more likely to be taken advantage of by bigger companies that set prices. This, coupled with the fact that they are dealing with increased demand and are required to take safety measures, may place undue strain on the rural pharmacies.
Under an already existing program to support the rural pharmacies, the payments started with a release of $4.7 million in July, later followed by $1.9 in December. The payments announced last month were made ahead of schedule to help buffer the pharmacies as the coronavirus crisis grew.
“Locally owned pharmacies, often the only pharmacies available for miles in any direction, are vital to stopping the spread of the coronavirus in rural communities. It’s more important than ever that we ensure these payments continue to go out so these small businesses can continue to be there for the people they serve,” Mendoza says.
According to Garth Reynolds, the Executive Director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, drug stores affected by the declining economy had asked the Controller’s office for financial aid.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of why community pharmacists are vital frontline health care providers in delivering medication and patient services. Critical access pharmacies will use the released funds to keep their doors open during the pandemic and serve their patients’ needs.”
Analysts see the way Illinois is using tax funds generated from the marijuana industry in the fight against COVID-19 as validation for what industry actors like SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING) have always indicated as the far-reaching effects of legalizing marijuana.
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