Mary Fox
Mary Fox

At a time when they are challenged to do more with less, assisted living community leaders are quickly realizing the significant role that future-thinking infrastructure initiatives will play in delivering a better quality of life for residents for years to come.

Understanding that building upgrades cannot wait, those leaders are tasked with finding creative, new ways to optimize communities at all levels and move forward towards a healthier, safer and more connected tomorrow. Among those available avenues is government funding available on the federal, state and local level to support infrastructure projects that enhance resiliency, energy efficiency and occupant health.

With an abundant, and sometimes overwhelming, array of tax credits and rebates from federal, state and other agencies, assisted living leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rehabilitate existing structures and advance new infrastructure projects, ultimately creating healthier, more sustainable living spaces. To drive real benefits for residents and bottom lines alike, assisted living facility leaders can take the following steps to create healthy buildings.

Start with the big picture

An outcomes-first mindset is imperative when considering how to leverage available funds for the greatest return on investment.

What is the ultimate goal of the upgrades? Whether it’s to enhance quality of life for residents, to increase reliability and convenience of solutions or to reduce emissions while enhancing comfort, to provide housing that keeps occupants safe or any combination of the above, assisted living communities leaders should align on their desired outcomes first to determine which projects and available funding mechanisms are the right fit.

Leverage a funding combination that meets buildings’ unique needs

Relief funds and innovative procurement mechanisms are available to assisted living organizations to provide upfront capital. With alternate revenue streams, assisted living leaders can make critical infrastructure updates without redirecting resources away from their primary mission of providing resident care and services.

The Inflation Reduction Act is a headliner among the array of funding opportunities. Passed by Congress in August, it provides billions of dollars in funding through direct spending tax credits that can be used to preserve assisted living communities, reduce energy costs and increase resilience. States have IRA money now and are waiting for guidance on how to use it from the Department of Energy. The funding will be first come, first served, so leaders should start planning now so they can secure funding as soon as it becomes available.

In addition to IRA, the American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal provide qualifying organizations with access to relief funds for infrastructure improvements projects that directly improve public health or fuel economic recovery. Those funds are selectively applied by state governments to support communities, public sector organizations and impacted businesses — including assisted living communities — through indoor and outdoor infrastructure improvements.

In addition to federal funding, local programs also exist and range from state initiatives to regional energy rebates and utility incentives that should be considered.

Lean on a trusted partner

In the first two months of the pandemic, 1.5 million healthcare jobs were lost, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has shared that three years in, staffing levels have not yet recovered. Not only do assisted living leaders have to worry about adequately staffing their communities, but they also have to think about how efficiently they are operating and how much money they are spending.

With staff already stretched thin, assisted living communities don’t have the capacity to implement the funding elements that will bring their infrastructure initiatives to life. To handle competing priorities, communities of all sizes are seeking out external partnerships to extend their staff members’ capabilities and maximize operational efficiency without adding headcount from an already small candidate pool. A partner that has proven expertise in research and implementation can streamline operations and also increase opportunities to access funds.

Assisted living communities have strategic imperatives to improve outcomes for their residents. To embark on the mission of creating healthy buildings, assisted living leaders need first to think of their bottom lines and consider a trusted partner who can help them determine appropriate financing opportunities and maximize every dollar. With this approach, leaders can create a healthy facility that leverages improved technology, advances sustainability and captures the benefits of innovation to maximize operational efficiency and create comfortable environments for residents.

Mary Fox is national vertical market director living spaces at Johnson Controls.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

Have a column idea? See our submission guidelines here.