David Schless headshot

American Seniors Housing Association executives took their case for additional pandemic relief funding for senior living providers directly to the source on Monday.

ASHA representatives met with senior officials from the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees and administers Provider Relief Fund payments for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They sought additional help for senior living operators from the fund’s $24 billion balance. 

ASHA President David Schless; Chairman Doug Schiffer, president and chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Allegro Senior Living; and Vice Chairman Jerry Frumm, vice chairman and chief investment officer of Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle, emphasized with the federal agency the need to help cover providers’ expenses and losses from the second half of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 with supplemental funding. 

Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living that the industry lost between $14 billion and $17 billion in 2020, with the greatest financial impact occurring in the second half of the year. He attributed that estimate to significant revenue losses associated with communities not accepting new residents, along with pandemic-related expenses, including staffing, testing and supplies.

“With record-low occupancy rates reported in the first quarter 2021, the available data suggests that the industry remains in severe financial distress as a result of the COVID pandemic,” Schless said.

ASHA also sought implementation of an appeals process for providers with outstanding payments, as well as those deemed ineligible for Phase 3 funding. Payments are still going out, but Schless said that some operators still are waiting for funds “they should have received months ago.” An appeals process, he added, would provide a means for timely and direct feedback for those providers.

“It has been incredibly frustrating for many of these providers to not have any way to directly communicate with HHS/HRSA,” Schless said.

Congressional support exists for the industry, he said, adding that he anticipates an announcement soon regarding a new allocation of remaining Provider Relief Funds for operators — including assisted living companies.

Schless characterized Monday’s conversation as “productive” and “timely,” indicating that HRSA officials will brief HHS leadership next week on their recommendations.

“This meeting was another concrete step forward, and we are hopeful the administration will make these much-needed funds available in the near future,” he said.