Balda and Schless headshots
Argentum President and CEO James Balda, left, and American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a $40 billion to $57 billion financial impact on the U.S. senior living industry over the next year, Argentum and American Seniors Housing Association leaders said Thursday in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Citing the forecast from a third-party analysis, ASHA President David Schless and Argentum President and CEO James Balda asked Azar to allocate $20 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to companies operating independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities. The industry includes 9,000 workers caring for 1.9 million older adults, they said.

“The cost of maintaining high quality of care and high quality of life for senior living communities has increased up to 73% for senior living communities that remain free of COVID-19 and up to 103% for COVID-19 positive senior living communities,” Balda and Schless wrote. “Further, on average, labor costs have increased up to 8% for senior living communities that remain COVID-19 free and up to 18% for COVID-19 positive senior living communities.”

Senior living communities are providing around-the-clock care, monitoring for symptoms, implementing infection control and cleaning protocols, screening employees, ensuring social distancing, adjusting activities, hiring and training additional employees, and paying bonuses and overtime, they said. And most communities are not accepting new residents so have no new revenues to help offset the additional expenses associated with the virus, Schless and Balda added.

“Senior living providers are not nursing homes and do not receive government funding, but they are a significant part of the healthcare system and tasked with caring for the most vulnerable population during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The communities are working tirelessly to maintain the health of community residents as well as community staff,” they wrote. “The goal is to keep senior living residents out of the hospital, but working toward that goal is financially taxing. The financial toll already experienced, and expected over the coming months, is extraordinary.”