The Department of Labor released updated questions and answers regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on Saturday and provided guidance categorizing senior living providers as “health care providers” under the act. The move means that operators will be excluded from requirements that certain companies with fewer than 500 workers provide up to 12 days of paid leave for employees who need to care for children due to school closures.

According to the Labor Department, for the purposes of the act, “[a] health care provider is anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity.”

Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association previously had expressed concerns about the act’s allowances for additional paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, noting that the allowances had the potential to “decimate” the senior living workforce, the organizations said. 

In response to the DOL’s updated guidance, Argentum President and CEO James Balda expressed his appreciation for the agency’s recognition of the need for the essential staff caring for the nation’s seniors.

“The country needs all hands on deck to protect vulnerable older adults, now more than ever,” Balda said. “Senior living employees ensure that rigorous infection control procedures are maintained; deliver and prepare meals; monitor and screen visitors; and help to reduce effects of social isolation.”

The CEO recognized, however, the ongoing childcare issue for senior living workers and urged state and local governments and municipalities to provide this needed service for senior living workers so that these workers can “continue caring for frail seniors and have peace of mind that their children are safe.”

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