New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the state Department of Health and the Department of Human Services have proposed providing assisted living, memory care and other long-term care facilities with $155 million in additional funding as they plan to reopen to visitors and resume normal operations.
The funding — a mix of state and federal dollars — would pave the way for implementing the state Health Department’s directive for the safe reopening of assisted living communities, comprehensive personal care homes, residential healthcare facilities, memory care homes and other long-term care facilities. Murphy said the funding would allow operators to meet “ongoing challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also ensuring both high-quality care and the health and safety of residents and staff going forward.”
To reopen, facilities must meet several benchmarks related to active cases, staffing levels, personal protective equipment and testing, and they must have outbreak management plans and infection control procedures.
The state would provide $25 million to help operators cover the costs of weekly testing for all staff members and would provide priority access to the Rutgers University saliva test. The state also is stockpiling PPE for facilities and has completed infection control surveys at 467 facilities, including 49 assisted living communities.
The remaining $130 million in Medicaid funding will go to nursing facilities to increase wages for certified nurse aides and support infection control compliance.
Once visitation begins, facilities must follow specific infection prevention and control protocols involving visitor screenings, masks, social distancing, limits on the length of visits and numbers of visitors, and established visitation areas.
Visitation at long-term care facilities was stopped in March, with outdoor visits by appointment restarting in late June. In July, the Department of Health issued a directive allowing parents, a family member and legal guardians of developmentally and intellectually disabled residents to have indoor visits by appointment.
“Long-term care facilities are home to some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents,” said Sen. Joe Vitale, chairman of the state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “I look forward to continuing our partnership with the administration and legislative leaders to deliver reforms that will help ensure New Jersey has the resources in place to weather the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and improve the future of the long-term care industry.”