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The COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate is seriously lacking support for seniors and care providers, association leaders say.

“The House legislation includes many important provisions, but falls short in providing relief for those most impacted by the virus — older Americans and their care providers,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a news release Wednesday. “Congress must adopt legislation to provide more vaccines, regular and rapid testing, access to affordable and abundant PPE [personal protective equipment], additional staffing support and robust funding necessary to provide 24/7 health and long-term care to the most vulnerable Americans.”

LeadingAge has called for at least $120 billion in Provider Relief Fund assistance for care providers reeling from pandemic expenses (at least $40 billion to 50 billion of which should be designated specifically for aging services providers). The assistance also includes $1.2 billion to address the needs of older adults in Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted senior housing to underwrite service coordinators and wireless internet access, along with cleaning, PPE, services and staffing to deal with the pandemic.

Other home care associations also have expressed concern about the legislation. In a letter sent on Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), several associations — the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Health Care Association, the Association for Clinical Oncology and Advancing Health in America — stressed the need for continuing the moratorium on the Medicare sequester cuts. The moratorium is scheduled to end at the end of March.

“This funding would allow for continued support of providers’ COVID-19- related lost revenues , as well as additional expenses due to activities such as purchasing supplies and equipment, standing up emergency testing centers and the construction and retrofitting of facilities,” the associations said.

The letter notes that while the sequester cuts have provided relief, “America’s health care providers continue to face overwhelming financial challenges and pressures associated with higher overhead costs due to personal protective equipment and other safeguards, lost revenue due to delayed non-emergent procedures.” 

A January 2021 survey of LeadingAge HUD-community providers revealed that despite the financial strain felt by most providers throughout the pandemic, the majority of respondents said they did not receive extra financial support to cover COVID-19 cost burdens for either unexpected expenses or revenue loss.