Provisions in a multi-billion dollar bill to provide coronavirus-related relief to workers would “significantly curtail our caregiver workforce” and must be addressed, Argentum President and CEO James Balda and American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless said Monday in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The Senate could take up the bill, H.R. 6201, also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as early as today. The legislation, passed by the House on Friday and revised Monday, includes allowances for paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, food security initiatives and free and widespread testing. President Trump previously predicted that the legislation would pass in the Senate this week and that he would sign it.
Under the bill, Balda and Schless noted, workers would be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave or receive two weeks of paid leave to care for a child in the event that a school or place of care has been closed or if a child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. The provisions would apply to workers in organizations with fewer than 500 employees who have been on the job for at least 30 days.*
“If all of these workers stay home to care for their children, the senior living workforce will be decimated,” they wrote. “Therefore, we respectfully ask for an exemption from these provisions for employees who work in assisted living, independent living, memory care, and continuing care retirement communities.”
The leaders said they “welcome the opportunity to work with Congress to develop some viable options where our senior living employees can continue to work and receive safe child care.”
Restrictions on Americans because of the coronavirus could last through the summer, Trump said Monday.
“They think August. Could be July. Could be longer than that,” the president said of experts’ opinions during a press conference. He also recommended that Americans limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people — down from the 25 or fewer people the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended the day before — and avoid discretionary travel and eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and public food courts. The president said the new gathering size recommendation came from his White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Task force member Deborah Birx, M.D., said the precautions were especially important over the next two weeks.
“If everybody in America does what we ask for over the next 15 days, we will see a dramatic difference, and we won’t have to worry about the ventilators, and we won’t have to worry about the ICU beds, because we won’t have our elderly and our people at the greatest risk having to be hospitalized,” she said.
Many states where the virus has hit hard already have limited gatherings and closed restaurants and bars except for delivery and takeout.
In other coronavirus-related news:
- The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions postposed a hearing set for Wednesday to discuss “How the U.S. Is Responding to COVID-19.” It was to be a follow-up to a hearing held March 3.
- An 84-year-old resident of Lambeth House, an independent and assisted living community in New Orleans, is the third person in Louisiana to die after being infected with the coronavirus, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Monday, NOLA.com reported. There are 12 COVID-19 cases in the retirement home, according to the media outlet, citing health officials.
- Georgia’s first cases of COVID-19 in senior living were reported on Monday, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Three residents and an employee at The Retreat at Canton, a Phoenix Senior Living community in Roswell, have presumptively tested positive for COVID-19, the media outlet reported. Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Health Care Association issued a joint statement Monday urging assisted living communities, personal care homes and skilled nursing facilities to restrict all nonessential visitors except in end-of-life cases, avoid all group activities and continue active screening of residents and workers.
- Kentucky-based Dominion Senior Living said Saturday in a Facebook post that all employees affected by school closings due to the coronavirus immediately would be eligible for an employee assistance program that provides up to $500 per month for childcare services until schools return to normal operating hours.
- Healthpeak Properties issued a presentation that put the risk due to COVID-19 at “moderate” for the continuing care retirement communities and leased senior housing properties in its portfolio. The risk was “increased” at the managed senior housing properties in the portfolio, the real estate investment trust said. “We anticipate the disruptions caused by the pandemic will result in a deterioration in performance relative to our initial expectations for at least the next few months. The extent of that deterioration will depend on the spread of the virus,” the REIT said. “More specifically, we believe occupancy declines will occur due to reduced move-ins and potentially due to an increased level of deaths. We expect various operating costs to increase; the extent is to be determined based on the evolution of the pandemic.”
- Ohio postponed its primary election, which was to be held today, but officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois said they planned to proceed with theirs. Polling places located in long-term care communities already had been relocated in the states.
* Editor’s note: The revised version of the bill passed in the House on Monday contains no permanent sick leave provision, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be able to ask the Labor Department exemptions to the provision of two weeks of coronavirus-related leave.