dollar sign balloon surrounded by coronavirus

A total of $261 million in Phase 3 general distributions had been disbursed to assisted living providers from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provider Relief Fund as of Dec. 31, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Assisted living providers were allocated $627 million in Phase 3, said the authors, who prepared the publication for congressional committees.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had allocated approximately $77 billion for healthcare providers in Phase 3 general distributions as of the end of the year. Those funds initially were disbursed Sept. 25.

Assisted living providers who serve Medicaid beneficiaries also were eligible, along with other Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program providers, for Phase 2 general distributions. HHS allocated $4.067 billion and disbursed $2.863 billion in Phase 2 funds to Medicaid and CHIP providers as of the end of the year, with the initial disbursement occurring July 3, according to the GAO. Those amounts do not include funds that were allocated or disbursed to dental providers who also were eligible for Phase 2 general distribution funds.

The amounts that have been awarded to assisted living providers are dwarfed by the amounts given to skilled nursing facilities.

“COVID-19 has affected vulnerable populations in other settings beyond nursing homes, including assisted living facilities. However, as the federal role in oversight of nursing homes is more significant than in other settings such as assisted living facilities, the federal response has been more focused on nursing homes,” the authors noted.

Skilled nursing facilities had been allocated $5 billion in targeted distributions, with $4.764 billion of that amount already disbursed. HHS allocated a total of approximately $67 billion in targeted distributions. The date of initial disbursement to skilled nursing facilities was May 22. 

Additionally, $4.75 billion was allocated for nursing home infection control, quality and performance as targeted distributions, with the initial disbursement occurring Aug. 27. Of that amount, $3.311 billion has been disbursed, the GAO said.

The report noted that as of the end of 2020, HHS had allocated a total of approximately $145 billion from the Provider Relief Fund, with approximately $33 billion not yet allocated. Of the total allocated, approximately $110 billion had been disbursed, and approximately $35 billion had yet to be disbursed.

COVID testing

The GAO report also addressed COVID testing.

“While the extent of antigen test use is unknown, use of rapid antigen tests likely has increased over time as HHS has made significant investments in the production and deployment of these rapid antigen tests, and states are planning their respective uses of such tests,” the report authors said.

In September, HHS began distributing 50 million Abbott rapid antigen tests to long-term care and other settings, as well as 100 million of the tests to states, the GAO said. As of Nov. 30, more than 4.6 million tests had been sent to assisted living communities, according to the report. That compares with the more than 18 million tests that had been sent to nursing homes and the more than 36 million tests had been deployed to states. 

Earlier, in July, HHS procured and began distributing more than 5.3 million Quidel and Becton Dickinson rapid antigen tests to more than 15,000 nursing homes, the authors noted.