As Congress considers a new COVID-19 relief package, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan urged House and Senate leaders to follow through on the federal government’s initial down payment to aging services providers on the frontlines and support older adults in assisted living, memory care, life plan and affordable housing communities as well as nursing homes, adult day programs, and home and community-based services, hospice and home health providers.
“This pandemic is far from over. As states reopen, we must continue to fight,” Sloan wrote in a letter on Wednesday. “It is immoral to leave behind the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 without adequate protections as the rest of us move forward. Older lives are not expendable.”
The letter lays out a comprehensive package of measures to deliver “significant, targeted relief” for older adults and staff in senior living and care facilities. It refers to the organization’s “Older American Lives At Stake: Five Essential Actions,” which calls on policymakers to take fundamental steps to protect older adults and the people who care for them.
Among the key asks for the next relief package, some of which LeadingAge outlined in a May 5 letter to Congress, are a dedicated $100 billion relief fund specifically for all aging services providers, $1.2 billion for affordable senior housing, a $10 billion federal aging services testing program, support for home health telehealth, access to forgivable loans, Medicaid adjustments and the creation of a bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Future of Aging Services.
The commission would identify “longstanding gaps in aging and long-term care services” and develop “immediate actionable steps to better serve older Americans and prevent the kind of loss we have experienced in the pandemic.”
LeadingAge also called for support of frontline workers with hazard pay, paid sick leave and healthcare coverage, as well as assistance with aggressive recruitment of workers.
- Provide Medicare reimbursement for home health visits conducted via telehealth.
- Provide broadband services to enable healthcare delivery to everyone.
- Support “tele-visitation” for isolated residents in assisted living, nursing homes and other settings.
- Make additional changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and the Main Street Lending Program to support aging services providers.
- A “Heroes” provision that lowers interest rates and extends repayment timelines for Medicare accelerated payments.
- Strengthen Medicaid’s role as a lifeline for older people.
- Provide administrative relief to efficiently meet COVID-19 emergency demands.
Based on members’ experiences in navigating the measures created by the previous coronavirus relief efforts, LeadingAge advocated that aging service providers be treated as a separate and independent entity.
“We must keep fighting for the health, safety and well-being of this generation of older adults,” Sloan said. “Congress must take immediate action to help safeguard older adults and their care workers. Do not leave us to fight this virus alone.”
In other coronavirus-related news:
- The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living on Wednesday announced the dates for the virtual conference that will replace its usual in-person annual conference due to the pandemic: Oct. 8 to 31. Content will be on-demand. Registration will open in early July.
- Roger Bernier, president of Chelsea Senior Living, says the senior living industry has been unfairly treated by the state of New Jersey, which has lumped assisted living communities in with nursing homes during the pandemic.
- As COVID-19 threatened western North Carolina, Affinity Living Group became part of a new approach to fighting it in assisted living and other long-term care facilities — with a strike team of medical professionals.
- The pandemic has created an opportunity to rethink the financing model for long-term supports and services from the ground up.
- The North Dakota Long Term Care Association and the Reuniting Residents and Families Task Force has laid out a three-phase plan to bring families together again.
- Oregon plans to test every resident and staff member at long-term care facilities for COVID-19.
- NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his management company, Iconomy, are creating a PPE partnership between the Wisconsin Health Care Association / Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living and Magid Glove & Safety Manufacturing Co.
- A New Hampshire working group, with representation from assisted living communities and nursing homes, has been formed to develop guidance on opening up long-term care facilities for outdoor visitation.
- The U.S. response to COVID-19 is worse than China’s response, according to one analysis. The COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. has passed 340 per million residents — just over 100 times the rate in China.
- Watercress Columbia Assisted Living and Memory Care in Vero Beach, FL, has achieved 100% negative test results for COVID-19 among staff members and residents.
- Friends say loneliness due to COVID-19 killed a retirement home resident. Some questions whether the mental health of the community’s most vulnerable is being forgotten amid the chaos of the pandemic.
- A 100-year-old former national political correspondent for the Scripps Howard News Service recently shared his life story from his retirement community.