Congress can ensure access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatments by fully funding the fight against the virus, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Monday in letters supporting the White House’s request for COVID-19 supplemental funds to support the continued fight against the pandemic.
President Biden reiterated his request April 28 for $22.5 billion in emergency funding to buy more doses of COVID-19 vaccines and related treatments, as well as to replenish funds to pay providers for treating, testing and vaccinating the uninsured. Congress had trimmed the original request down to $15 billion, which eventually was stripped from the omnibus spending bill. After meeting resistance in Congress, on Monday, Biden again separated the COVID-19 funding request from a Ukrainian aid bill, leaving the fate of COVID-19 relief in jeopardy.
The last major COVID-19 relief package was passed in March 2021, when the Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion relief bill. With COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations on the rise, and predicted surges in late summer and fall, Smith Sloan asked legislators not to ease up on the tools proven to protect older adults and those at risk.
“We know what the tools are to confront COVID-19,” she wrote in her letters. “We must ensure test kits and testing locations remain available and accessible to everyone who needs them, and vaccines (including boosters) are readily available and robustly promoted.”
The CEO also advocated for easily accessible treatments and therapeutics.
Sloan wrote that although older adults are the most highly vaccinated segment of the nation, they also are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and breakthrough infections. When they do contract COVID-19, they are the most likely to suffer severe and long periods of symptoms, be hospitalized and potentially die.
Additional dollars to buy the critical resources needed to fight COVID-19 need to be allocated, she said, to improve the nation’s ability to protect older adults now and in the future.
“Our country must be prepared to take on future COVID outbreaks,” a LeadingAge spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Particularly now, as our country celebrates Older Americans Month, Congress must take action to ensure that our citizens age 65 and older can, indeed, ‘Age My Way,’ and with the help of COVID vaccines, tests and other tools, remain in good health, safe from the scourge of COVID in any community they call home — in assisted and independent living, nursing homes or other communities.”