As a group of bipartisan negotiators in Congress moves closer to finalizing a deal over the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, senior living groups are sounding the alarm that the agreement might come at their expense.
Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the bill on Wednesday, but the group of negotiators said they are on track to finalize a deal by Monday, with a list of options on how to pay for it.
One of those options, according to the organizations representing the aging services industry, is the remaining $20 billion-plus in the Provider Relief Fund.
Argentum sent out an “urgent action” message Thursday, calling on “all senior living advocates to amplify our message to oppose this effort.”
“Argentum is very concerned that lawmakers may see the PRF as one of the larger sources of unspent funds that could be used to offset new spending, without being fully aware of the immediate needs for these funds, including the forthcoming Phase 4,” the association stated. “Our message is simple: giving away the last remaining COVID-19 relief dollars for an infrastructure package is short-sighted and we fear many communities will struggle to make it through a fall surge, especially with the Delta variant.
“Assisted living caregivers have received woefully little relief and need PRF help now with cases continuing to increase in most states.”
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said that long-term care providers “are still facing a historic clinical and financial crisis.” He urged policymakers to distribute the remaining Provider Relief Fund dollars to its intended recipients: healthcare providers who need it to support residents and staff members.
“Repurposing unused funds is responsible, but the remaining Provider Relief Funds should not be considered unused, as they have not been made available in 2021 and are desperately needed,” Parkinson said. “With the Delta variant spreading rampantly throughout the U.S., now is not the time to divert resources away from healthcare providers in order to pay for other legislative packages.”
American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living that he knows several senators oppose the use of Provider Relief Funds to pay for infrastructure. ASHA’s legislative team, he added, continues its outreach to ensure that those funds are used as Congress intended: to cover COVID-related expenses and losses.
“ASHA continues its rigorous lobbying efforts to secure an allocation for senior living from the remaining Provider Relief Funds, and have been urging the members of the bipartisan group to not use PRF funds to help pay for infrastructure,” Schless said, adding that he is seeking $3 billion to $5 billion in funding to be allocated to senior living as soon as possible.
A LeadingAge spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that policymakers need to leave the Provider Relief Fund appropriations untouched so they can be used for their original purpose — to provide relief.
“The fact that these funds are not yet used isn’t due to a lack of need; it is because [the Health Resources & Services Administration] has offered no opportunity for providers to access funds since late 2020,” the spokesperson said. “Yet, at the same time, the pandemic continues to take its toll. Providers’ financial losses are mounting, as spending for COVID-related items and services, including personal protection equipment, tests and staffing support, continues.
“For many of our members, the need for support is urgent,” the spokesperson added.