A bipartisan group of House lawmakers rolled out a $1.5 trillion stimulus plan Tuesday in an effort to break a deadlock with the White House, but representatives of the senior living industry say the needs of older adults remain unmet.
The “March To Common Ground” proposal from the 50-member Problem Solvers Caucus, led by co-chairs Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY), includes COVID-19 testing, a second round of stimulus checks, unemployment aid, worker and liability protections, and small business loans that they say would last through at least next spring.
The framework calls for new stimulus money and the reallocation of previously appropriated CARES Act funding. Under the testing and healthcare category, the plan calls for $30 billion for healthcare provider support, including telehealth expansion; $120 billion for unemployment assistance; and $290 billion for small business and nonprofits, including a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Argentum President and CEO James Balda said he appreciates the efforts from the caucus, but “we will continue to stress the importance of ensuring our nation’s most vulnerable — including those in senior living communities and those who serve them — receive essential support in future legislative packages.”
Support, he said, “must include prioritization for rapid and effective testing and vaccine distribution, as well as the financial support to implement these measures.”
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said any new COVID-19 relief legislation must address the needs of older adults and those who care for them. On Tuesday, the organization sent a letter to congressional leaders urging action on a COVID-19 relief package.
“Providers continue to need access to critical resources like PPE, test kits and supplies, and hero pay for staff,” Sloan said. “With no end to the pandemic in sight, the financial impact of this healthcare crisis is disastrous for our members across the care continuum. The Problem Solvers Caucus framework does not address the needs of older adults and those who provide housing, supports and services for them.”
American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless said inclusion of liability protections in the proposal “suggests a level of bipartisan support for reasonable protections in these unprecedented times.”
“Given the disproportionate and tragic impact of this virus on seniors over 80, our industry is going to be a target for the trial bar,” he said. “However, because this virus can transfer by asymptomatic staff and residents, and there is no vaccine or effective treatment or even rapid result tests available to the industry, Congress should put in place protections to recognize these challenges and provide limited relief.
“The industry is doing everything it can to prevent infection and mitigate spread in senior living communities. We are not seeking blanket immunity and will not support protection for gross negligence.”