The senior living industry has an “unprecedented opportunity” to fight for the needs of assisted living, independent living and senior housing overall as infrastructure discussions advance on Capitol Hill, according to Argentum.

During an Argentum Advocates briefing on Wednesday, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Maggie Elehwany said that senior living has a “significant opportunity to improve the trajectory for assisted living facilities” and help providers on the frontlines.

“We anticipate, as Congress puts together its next large funding package, they’re going to spend money really like they’ve never spent before,” Elehwany said.

Specific mention of assisted living in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposal for an investment in senior care is cause for optimism, she said. That provides senior living a “tremendous opportunity” to talk about workforce shortages, access to capital needs and tax code changes to benefit the sector, Elehwany added. 

“The advocacy message is really focusing on how we can develop a comprehensive plan and really take advantage, for the first time in many decades, where Congress is interested in taking care of senior needs,” she said.

Pointing to a recent study from NORC at the University of Chicago examining mortality rates across the residential long-term care continuum, Elehwany said that the narrative that quantified the efforts of assisted living providers to protect residents — all with little or no federal relief —  is “going far.”

“The industry proved itself to be agile, resilient and focused,” she said. 

As the industry anticipates congressional hearings on oversight and COVID-19 lessons learned, Elehwany said data such as those from the NORC study will help senior living differentiate itself from other long-term care providers. 

“This really gives us a powerful story to fight against overly burdensome regulation proposed by Congress in the future,” Elehwany said.

With an anticipated $24 billion left in the Provider Relief Fund, Elehwany said there has been a tactical delay in a fourth round of funding. The Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services, she added, is working through an internal review and mathematical errors from previous funding rounds before announcing a Phase 4 funding deployment. Argentum anticipates that announcement will come in July and could allow providers to capture and quantify losses from the third and fourth quarters of 2020, as well as from the first quarter of 2021.

At the same time, Vice President of Government Relations Paul Williams said that state-based advocacy efforts are focusing on “establishing reasonable liability protections,” maintaining vaccination priorities in senior living, and securing coronavirus pandemic relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 state allocations.