The majority (69%) of affordable seniors housing providers say they are at least financially strained — if not severely financially strained — as a result of having to pay for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, thermometers, and other screening tools amid the ongoing pandemic. That’s according to a survey of 278 nonprofit seniors housing providers conducted by LeadingAge earlier this month.

As coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, these new data raise fresh concerns about the health and well-being of the more than 2.5 million older adults with low incomes living in federally-assisted affordable housing, LeadingAge noted. 

“This is a wake-up call: COVID is not just a nursing home issue,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge.

Other results of the poll show that many providers also are facing staffing challenges, maintenance backlogs and occupancy issues. In addition, internet access has become extremely important in light of heightened reliance on digital communications during the pandemic to keep older adults connected to family, friends and healthcare providers. 

Many survey respondents, including Catherine Evans, executive director of Lesley Senior Communities in Half Moon Bay, CA, reported having to pay for unbudgeted items such as touchless thermometers, face masks, hand sanitizer, Plexiglas to create safe places and additional labor costs — all solely attributable to COVID-19 response.

“Over five communities in California, these expenses are not insignificant for an affordable senior housing provider that is neither skilled nursing nor assisted living,” Evans said. “Our 2020 budget’s been blown up and unfortunately relief funds from the CARES Act far from cover our additional expenses.”