dome of Capitol Building, exterior shot

The AARP is using its second national Virtual Lobby Week in part to urge Congress to ensure that long-term care facilities are testing staff members and residents for COVID-19, providing personal protective equipment and staffing adequately.

The organization said its requests relate to “nursing homes and other care facilities.”

“Congress should also require facilities to make available and facilitate virtual visitation for their residents and families, and report publicly on a daily basis whether they have confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, including demographic data,” the organization said. “Lastly, legislation should ensure that taxpayer dollars provided to long-term care facilities are used towards items and services that directly relate to the health and safety of residents and staff.”

Senior living communities primarily are regulated at the state level, although the federal government has provided monies from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provider Relief Fund to senior living communities, and some senior living communities serve beneficiaries of Medicaid, which is a federal and state program. 

During the AARP’s Virtual Lobby Week, which began Dec. 1 and ends today, AARP state leaders and volunteers from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are meeting remotely with Capitol Hill offices. Social Security and federal nutrition programs also are on the agenda.

“It’s crucial that Congress takes immediate action on several pressing needs, including protecting residents of nursing homes and other care facilities, ensuring Social Security benefits are protected for all, and temporarily increasing food assistance for those who are struggling in this pandemic to make ends meet,” AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond said in a statement.

The push comes as the organization releases a report to introduce the AARP Public Policy Institute’s LTSS Choices initiative, which will include assisted living programs as a topic area. Regarding that subject, the organization said it will examine “existing solutions that could be scaled to bring services to senior homes,” with a focus on programs in New Jersey and Connecticut.