Assisted living providers are being left to “twist in the wind” and possibly close facilities due to uncompensated COVID-19-related costs, while billions of dollars in relief are being earmarked for other groups not on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, Argentum asserted Friday.
It was April Fools’ Day, but the association was not joking. And Congress’ “continued reluctance” to provide targeted relief to the sector is no laughing matter, Argentum said.
“As supplemental relief measures are considered, we remind you that despite $6 trillion spent over six major pandemic relief packages, seniors and their assisted living caregivers have been consistently left behind and remain at significant risk of this virus,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda wrote Friday to Senate and House leaders.
The association seeks two things, he said:
- Targeted relief for assisted living operators (including memory care providers) through the repurposing of some of the approximately $300 billion in relief funding that remains unspent.
- Direct support to help administer COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to senior living residents through a renewed public-private partnership to provide on-site clinics.
Nationally, assisted living has received only one-twelfth of the relief that skilled nursing facilities have received, even though assisted living operators serve the same number of older adults as do SNFs, the association said, calling the amount of relief provided to date “appallingly low” given that the industry’s collective loss due to the pandemic is estimated to exceed $30 billion. And chances to even the score may be dwindling, as the next package — reported to be $10 billion in funding — could be the last to come from Congress this year.
“It is simple math. The money spent to ward off a once-in-a-lifetime virus, to pay workers extra hero pay, to reconfigure buildings, to insulate seniors so they may live … all of this requires some level of compensation,” Balda said Friday in a statement.
As examples, Argentum provided pandemic-related loss and federal relief numbers from a few key swing states in a press release:
- Alaska’s COVID-related losses in assisted living have totaled $28 million, and providers have received $551,000 in Provider Relief Fund dollars.
- Arizona’s 2,135 assisted living communities have lost approximately $739 million over the course of the pandemic and have received $15 million in compensation from the federal government.
- Maine’s 156 assisted living communities have lost approximately $200 million and have received $4 million.
- Montana’s 210 assisted living communities have lost approximately $103 million and have received $2 million.
- Utah’s 241 assisted living communities have lost approximately $253 million and have received $5 million.
- West Virginia’s 74 assisted living communities have lost approximately $73 million and have received $1.5 million.
“Senior living residents and their caregivers have never received adequate support to meet the unprecedented challenges they face from this virus,” Balda told the Senate and House leaders. “We simply cannot have yet another relief package — the seventh such package — to once again leave these seniors and caregivers behind.”
As legislators consider an additional, perhaps final, major relief package, Argentum said it is activating a “top-to-bottom grassroots effort” to try to secure aid for assisted living. The industry just needs Congress to take the association’s current and past messages, and the messages from other industry associations, seriously.
Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.