headshot of Sen. Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican senators have added their voices to the growing number of lawmakers urging Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to release the remaining Provider Relief Fund monies to long-term care and other healthcare providers.

In a Sept. 2 letter to Becerra, McConnell and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) noted that 11 months have passed since the last PRF distribution was announced, yet long-term care and other healthcare providers are battling a new wave of COVID-19 infections. 

“We believe it is imperative for the administration to continue to fight the pandemic with all available means, including by swiftly disbursing PRF funds to providers buckling under the weight of surging COVID-19 cases,” they wrote. 

The letter follows the theme of a bipartisan letter sent to Beccara Aug. 26, wherein more than 40 senators asked him to distribute the remaining dollars in the PRF and other healthcare relief programs.

Twenty-five percent of the $178 billion in the PRF and all of the $8.5 billion allocated for rural providers remained unspent as of May 31, the 23 Democrats and 18 Republicans, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), pointed out, citing Government Accountability Office data from July 19.

“GAO recommended that HHS communicate information about, and facilitate oversight of, the department’s use of COVID-19 relief funds by providing projected time frames for its planned distributions in the spend plans it submits to Congress,” the senators wrote at the time.

Long-term care advocacy groups, likewise, have called on the administration to release the funds. The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, the American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum and LeadingAge co-authored a letter to the administration Aug. 10 asking for the immediate allocation of remaining PRF to skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities.

“While much of the economy is recovering, for these providers, COVID-19 is not over, and the rapidly spreading delta variant underscores the need to remain vigilant,” they wrote. “Providers have been anticipating the forthcoming Phase 4 of relief for months, and the administration must ensure that these funds are made available in full and as quickly as possible.”