Although federal funding to provide COVID-19 clinical, operational and administrative support to senior living communities and other long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania ran out last month, the state said it will continue offering services through a scaled-down program for a few more weeks.

Pennsylvania is transitioning its Regional Response Health Collaboration Program into more limited Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams to continue supporting assisted living communities, personal care homes and skilled nursing facilities during COVID-19 outbreaks there.

The program will continue 24-hour access to assistance, including COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment orders, assessments and short-term staffing. The state plans to appeal to the Biden administration for more federal funding to continue the support.  

“The RRHC program has been instrumental in our statewide response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including aiding our frontline healthcare workers who provide care and testing to COVID-19 patients in long-term care facilities,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who has been nominated by President Biden to become assistant secretary of health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The original $175 million regional response program was developed by the state’s Long-Term Care Task Force and funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That funding ended Dec. 30. It provided clinical assessment and consultation, personal protective equipment, rapid response staffing and testing support, and training and education for COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

Under the scaled-down program, $12 million has been allocated for regional assistance teams and staffing for January and February. Maxim Healthcare Staffing and General Healthcare Resources are providing emergency staffing services. The state Department of Health has a $28.5 million agreement with Curative Labs for testing support at long-term care facilities.

“COVID-19 in long-term care facilities is closely tied to rates of community spread, and constant vigilance, diligent preparation, and quick, nimble response dictates the extent of an outbreak in a facility and the number of people affected,” Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said in a statement. “The RCAT will allow us to continue this support as we are able, while we also look toward Congress and the incoming administration for the support we need to resume a more robust program.”