Congress should pass another COVID-19 funding package, adding $100 billion to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund and dedicating “a sizable portion” of that amount to assisted living communities and nursing homes to pay for testing, personal protective equipment and support for residents and staff members, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said Monday.

“Without replenishing funds for federal and state agencies, healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living communities, could find themselves less than completely prepared for the challenges of the upcoming cold and flu season, which could inevitably result in an uptick in new COVID cases,” AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said. “With the cold and flu season adding a real complication to the ongoing COVID pandemic response, the need for extra testing, personal protective equipment and staffing, will need to be met in order to keep caregivers and residents safe.”

LeadingAge made a similar request on Friday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), asking among other things that an additional $100 billion be allocated to the Provider Relief Fund in any newly proposed COVID-19 relief legislation.

“We request that language be included that specifically prioritizes all aging services providers – including nursing homes, assisted living, hospice, home health, adult day services centers, PACE organizations, and continuing care retirement communities – to access these funds to pay for e.g., personal protective equipment needed so long as the public health emergency continues, lost income from reduced occupancy, and other needs,” wrote LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan, who also is acting president and CEO of VNAA/Elevating Home.

Seventy percent of the $175 billion in phase 1 general distribution funds from the Provider Relief Fund already has been distributed, AHCA/NCAL said, and the remaining funds likely will be allocated by early October.

Funding for assisted living operators was part of phase 2, with $15 billion announced in June for assisted living operators and others serving Medicaid beneficiaries and then additional funds for private-pay assisted living operators announced Sept. 1. As of Sept. 11, only $2.2 billion of the $15 billion had been paid to eligible Medicaid providers, according to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

“Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer,” Parkinson said. “We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities, by passing another COVID funding package before they leave town for the elections.”

In her letter, Sloan urged Pelosi to include provisions from the Heroes Act, HR 6800, in any newly proposed COVID-19 relief legislation. Among those provisions are a separate allocation of at least $75 billion for testing; $750 million for Project Based Rental Assistance; $500 million for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, including $300 million for service coordinators; “premium pay” for essential workers; and funds to pay for child care for essential workers.

“There remains significant need for legislative and financial support to address the very real immediate needs of, and the long-term impact of the pandemic on, aging services providers, their employees, and the older people they serve,” she said.

Letter to debate moderator

In a separate letter to Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who is moderating Tuesday’s debate between President Donald Trump, a Republican, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the Democratic Party candidate, LeadingAge proposed three questions to ask the candidates:

  1. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for older adults: 80% of COVID deaths are among people over 65, and over 50,000 people died in nursing homes. Aging services providers have struggled to obtain adequate personal protective equipment, testing, and workers–and mounting costs are unsustainable. How will you ensure that older adults in senior living settings like nursing homes, assisted living, retirement communities and affordable housing for older adults living on low incomes, are safe during the pandemic?”
  2. “There is a severe lack of housing affordable for older adults with low incomes in the United States. Only 1 out of 3 older adults eligible for subsidized housing are able to obtain it. How will you address this crisis and invest in more affordable housing for older adults?”
  3. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown the strain that caregiving has on families across the country. How will you invest services and supports to families, so older adults can stay in their own homes longer?”