Shot of a group of young doctors joining hands in solidarity in a modern hospital

A bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives is looking to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to work with them to resolve workforce shortages experienced by nursing homes across the country.

In a Sept. 9 letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, 14 lawmakers asked for the agency’s support of H.R. 7744, the Building America’s Healthcare Workforce Act. 

The representatives noted that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has lost almost 240,000 nursing home jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Projections also show that the United States could see 400 more skilled nursing facility closures in 2022 alone,” they wrote.

The Building America’s Health Care Workforce Act was introduced in May by U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and David McKinley (R-WV) and would extend temporary pandemic-era allowances in an effort to build up the nursing home workforce. In addition to allowing temporary nurse aides who had worked in nursing homes for 24 months to fulfill training and testing requirements to become certified nursing assistants, the bill also would enable them to apply their on-the-job experience and training toward the 75-hour federal training requirement to become certified.

“Throughout the past two and a half years, 44 states have taken actions to allow for more TNAs to care for patients at their bedsides because of these granted flexibilities, leading to the hiring of thousands of TNAs nationwide,” the congresspeople wrote.

Earlier this year, CMS announced it was ending the pandemic-era blanket waiver, which would end the employment of TNAs as members of the caregiving team on Oct. 7. The agency, however, recently announced a change that would offer states and nursing facilities the ability to apply for a short-term waiver.

The American Health Care Association supports the legislation.

“Hundreds of thousands of temporary nurse aides stepped up to serve vulnerable seniors during this global crisis, supporting residents with non-clinical tasks and offering companionship, especially during government lockdowns,” Holly Harmon, RN, senior vice president of quality, regulatory and clinical services for AHCA, said when the bill was introduced earlier this year.With many states unable to meet current training and testing demands, this legislation will help temporary aides continue to serve their residents, supporting seniors’ continuity of care.”