Editor’s Note, Sept. 14: The deadline for beginning an application has been extended from Sept. 13 to Sept. 21.

Private-pay assisted living communities now may apply for funding under the Provider Relief Fund phase 2 general distribution allocation, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday through the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The funding is made possible through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, HHS said.

“By expanding the Provider Relief Fund to assisted living facilities, we are supporting more frontline providers and helping to protect the nearly 1 million vulnerable older Americans in their care,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

Argentum said it learned the news late Tuesday. President and CEO James Balda said the organization was “pleased” by the announcement and noted that “Argentum, along with our trade association partners, have been advocating on behalf of these communities for months.”

Assisted living operators that serve Medicaid beneficiaries already were eligible to apply for the funds, but now private-pay operators are eligible.

Newly eligible operators will receive an amount equal to 2% of their annual revenue from resident care, like other providers applying for phase 2 funding, HHS said.

“While this source of funding will help assisted living operators that have been experiencing accelerating costs and declining revenue for months due to COVID-19, the fight against this disease is far from over. Senior living communities will continue to bear significant costs related to staffing pressures and procuring scarce resources, such as COVID-19 tests and [personal protective equipment], to detect and mitigate the spread of the disease,” Balda noted. “We will continue to advocate for the urgent and critical needs of the senior living industry, including seeking priority access to a vaccine once available for those who live and work in senior living communities. It is essential that these communities have what they need to protect their residents and staff and to secure their financial future.”

National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director Scott Tittle called the announcement “welcome news for the tens of thousands of assisted living providers and the hundreds of thousands of seniors they serve.”

“For six months, assisted living caregivers have been diverting significant resources to help acquire personal protective equipment, testing and additional support for staff,” he said. “Funding from the federal government will help ensure assisted living providers continue these efforts to keep their residents and staff safe as well as remain a reliable long term care option for their local communities.”

According to the findings of a recent NCAL survey, half of assisted living providers are operating at a loss, and 64% believed they wouldn’t be able to sustain operations for another year. A majority (73%) reported operating at a profit margin of 3% or less.

Assisted living operators and all other providers applying for the current phase 2 general distribution funding will have until Sept. 13 to begin their application by entering their tax identification number for validation.

HHS has posted previously recorded phase 2 application webinars, answers to frequently asked questions and other information about how to apply for the funding on its website. For updated information and data on the Provider Relief Fund, visit hhs.gov/providerrelief.

The announcement of COVID funds for assisted living came on the same day that HHS announced the coming shipment of COVID tests to assisted living communities.

“Coupled with today’s news that rapid, antigen tests are being delivered to assisted living communities across the country, we greatly appreciate HHS for recognizing the importance of supporting our long-term care sector during this crisis,” Tittle said.

Assisted living operators had been expecting the announcement of the opening of an application portal for private-pay assisted living. American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living last week that the organization heard from HHS that senior living providers soon would have access to the agency’s Provider Relief Fund.

LeadingAge also is among the organizations that had been advocating for senior living providers to receive funds.

“COVID-19 has not spared older adults in assisted living, who have been largely overlooked by the federal government for the last six months. HHS’s announcement is an important acknowledgment of the overwhelming financial burden assisted living providers have borne and continue to bear to keep assisted living residents safe and healthy,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said. “We welcome this support, but our fight is far from over. LeadingAge will continue to advocate aggressively for the funding and resources desperately need by assisted living providers, as well as nursing homes, home care, hospice, and the entire continuum of aging services.”

Updated Sept. 2 with LeadingAge statement.

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