Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Credit: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Contributor / Getty Images)

Texas long-term care facilities are poised to receive almost $400 million in federal COVID-19 relief to address staffing shortages following pleas to state lawmakers.

Monday, the Lone Star State legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 8, the American Rescue Plan Act Funds bill, which will provide $178.3 million in one-time grants to be shared by assisted living communities, home health agencies, community attendants and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Skilled nursing facilities will receive $200 million in a one-time grant.

The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Providers can use the funding for staffing needs, including recruitment and retention bonuses, resulting from COVID-19.

Texas Health Care Association President and CEO Kevin Warren said that he appreciates that care for the elderly is a priority for the legislature, given all of the priorities it had to consider in spending the funds.

“While there is still more work to be done, this much-needed investment will help the profession’s staffing efforts, and for that we are very grateful,” Warren said.

Carmen Tilton, vice president of public policy for the Texas Assisted Living Association, told McKnight’s Senior Living that TALA worked with THCA and LeadingAge Texas to get long-term care included in the American Rescue Plan Act funding bill. TALA, the state partner of Argentum, specifically advocated for assisted living communities and direct care staff assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, she said.

“After being initially excluded from the federal Provider Relief Funds and left out of the filed version of the state’s ARPA allocation, we knew we’d have to redouble our advocacy efforts to get our provider communities the financial support they desperately need and deserve,” Tilton said.

The state Health and Human Services Commission will develop rules for distribution of the grants and will consider previously awarded federal COVID-19 relief dollars in its awards.

In September, THCA and LeadingAge Texas asked for $400 million of the state’s $16.7 billion share of American Rescue Plan Act relief funding. The associations said that the funding was needed to help strengthen the long-term care workforce to promote quality care and resident / patient safety.

At the time, Warren said that long-term care had been plagued by a years-long workforce shortage.

“The impact of this pandemic on residents and staff has made a challenging situation dire,” Warren said. “We can’t look away. We need to ensure the services are there for the daily that rely on us, and the Texas Legislature has a role to play in that.”

The two long-term care associations collaborated on a workforce-focused survey last month of Texas assisted living community and nursing home operators. The survey of more than 120 organizations found that since the start of the pandemic, Texas senior living and skilled nursing providers have experienced a 12% decline in employment, all have vacancies for direct care staff members, and 30% have limited move-ins due to chronic staffing shortages.

The THCA is the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, which recently released the results of its own, national survey, in which 61% of assisted living respondents said that workforce issues might force them to close.