LeadingAge is stepping up calls on Congress to adopt a COVID relief package addressing the dangers that the pandemic poses to senior living residents and other older adults.
“Aging services providers continue to protect older adults and their staff, and in turn COVID costs continue to mount,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said. “Providers who serve older Americans face exponential expenses. Congress must pass a robust, comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill to ensure vulnerable older Americans and the providers who serve them survive the pandemic intact.”
As part of LeadingAge’s 100 Days of Advocacy campaign calling on President Biden and Congress to make 2021 a “new beginning for older Americans,” Sloan sent letters to key congressional committee chairs — including the House of Representatives Financial Services, Ways & Means, Energy & Commerce, Education and Labor, and Small Business committees — detailing needs to protect older adults, including additional Provider Relief Funds and support for older adults in affordable housing.
LeadingAge is pushing for at least $120 billion more in Provider Relief Funds, including $40 to $50 billion designated to help aging services providers pay for testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines not covered by the federal government. The association also wants providers to be able to use Provider Relief Funds up to six months after the pandemic ends, “to provide adequate time to phase back into pre-pandemic service levels.”
House reconciliation bill
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released its draft reconciliation bill last week, and it contains several provisions that align with LeadingAge’s request for aging services provider support.
The House bill would allocate $7.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare, promote, administer and monitor COVID-19 vaccines. Under the bill, the CDC would receive another $1 billion to strengthen vaccine confidence through education, $1.75 billion to improve identification of new virus variants, and $500 million to expand and modernize surveillance and analytics infrastructure.
The legislation also would provide $5.2 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services to address the supply chain for vaccines and therapeutics, as well as $500 million for the Food and Drug Administration to review and track new vaccines and therapeutics. The House bill also would allocate another $46 billion to HHS to detect, diagnose, trace and monitor COVID-19 infections, as well as activities to mitigate the spread of the virus, which includes testing and PPE.
The bill would allocate $1.8 billion to HHS for testing, PPE and vaccines for staff and residents in congregate care settings, including long-term care. LeadingAge said it will “continue to advocate for complete coverage of testing costs” in long-term care facilities.
Workforce asks from LeadingAge include targeted funds to increase frontline staff wages, and continued funding of “strike teams” and National Guard units to relieve staffing shortages.
The House bill would allocate $7.6 billion to establish, expand and sustain a public health workforce, including additional lab personnel, contract tracers, social support specialists and public health nurses. The bill also includes $100 million for the Medical Reserve Corps to support emergency response efforts in communities.
LeadingAge also seeks $1.2 billion in COVID-19 relief to address the needs of older adults in HUD-assisted affordable senior housing, including $300 million for service coordinators, $50 million for wireless internet installation and service fees, and $845 million for COVID-related costs, including cleaning, PPE, security and staffing.
“These recommendations reflect the real and dire needs of aging services providers, who continue to face exponential increases in expenses from testing, PPE, staffing, cleaning and other ongoing costs — even as revenues to cover these unprecedented needs have fallen substantially for many,” LeadingAge stated.
In December, LeadingAge sent the Biden transition team almost four dozen recommended policy actions for its first 30 days, 100 days and first year.