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Retooling existing federal and state job training programs to include senior living in the menu of options is the focus of Argentum’s latest educational campaign to address the industry’s workforce crisis.

During an Argentum Advocates membership call on Wednesday, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy Maggie Elehwany said that a tremendous amount of job training programs exist, but geriatric care and caregiving opportunities are lacking. The Biden administration, in fact, announced last month the investment of $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds in workforce development programs.

Argentum is looking to put senior living on the map by educating policymakers on the workforce challenges within the industry, she said. 

“There is a groundswell developing to focus on the workforce crisis,” Elehwany said. 

States, she said, still are sitting on a significant amount of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars for COVID-19 relief. One goal of the education campaign is to highlight the need for workforce training in senior living and encourage states to funnel those ARPA dollars to providers to address worker shortages.

“There is a tremendous crisis today, but if you look at the sheer demographics of the aging population, we know the crisis could turn cataclysmic if we don’t act soon and train the workforce we need to today,” Elehwany said.

Specifically, Argentum recommends doubling the Labor Department’s Closing the Skills Gap grant program funding to $200 million due its proven success, including language in reports calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration and the Labor Department to address senior living workforce challenges, and officially adding assisted living to the definition of “home” in home- and community-based services reports.

“Don’t give up. There is still plenty of time ahead,” Elehwany said. “We need to push from the local level to see those dollars flow.”

Provider Relief Fund

Argentum also shared some new information regarding the Provider Relief Fund. Vice President of Government Relations Paul Williams said that HRSA indicated that Phase 4 payment determinations and Phase 3 reconsiderations will be finalized by Sept. 15. 

More importantly, the new deadline for Phase 4 reconsiderations will be 45 days from the time HRSA completes all Phase 4 determinations. Williams said that that change means anyone can file a reconsideration, regardless of when a Phase 4 determination was received.

The biggest change, Williams said, is that applicants who filed a reconsideration earlier this year will be considered along with those that file their reconsiderations following the final Phase 4 determinations. In other words, all reconsiderations will be addressed at the same time. 

Williams added that providers that already received determination denials or what they consider an underpayment, and failed to file for reconsideration during the original 45-day window, now will have another opportunity to file that reconsideration. 

Employee Retention Tax Credit

And during the call, Williams encouraged providers to support reinstatement of the Employee Retention Tax Credit through bipartisan legislation, SB 3625 and HR 6161. The ERTC, which was terminated at the end of the third quarter of 2021, helped cover costs for employers who experienced revenue drops and kept workers on the payroll.

The credit originally was enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, expanded in December 2020, and extended as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021 to run through the end of 2021. But the credit was included as a pay-for in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enacted in November. The law retroactively ended the credit early, on Sept. 30.

Many assisted living communities and other entities, Williams said, would have received funding through the ERTC. The reinstatement would enable businesses who kept workers on payroll in the fourth quarter of 2021 to claim the credit.