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With a Thursday deadline looming for $47 million in COVID-19 grant dollars, Georgia senior living and care provider advocates are worried that eligible assisted living and personal care home operators will miss out on critical financial relief.

The state’s senior living providers have until Dec. 1 to complete the necessary paperwork through the Georgia Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget to apply for up to $100,000 per community through the American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 Mitigation Grant Program.

The $47 million grant program supports assisted living communities and personal care homes with 25 or more beds that provide services to prevent and mitigate COVID-19. The program is funded through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provided in ARPA and will reimburse costs incurred between March 3, 2021, and Dec. 1, 2022.

Catie Ramp, president and CEO of the Georgia Senior Living Association, said she was concerned that just over 20% of communities have registered to claim their reimbursements.  Ramp told McKnight’s Senior Living that there are several reasons for the slow uptake, including an outdated community contact list being used by the state, operator fear and confusion over the acceptance of state and federal dollars, and disbelief among providers about the validity of the program.

“We don’t typically take state or federal aid, so there is fear in that,” Ramp said. “We’ve made phone calls, and people don’t believe it’s real. It’s coming from such valid sources, but they just don’t believe it’s real.”

LeadingAge Georgia President and CEO Ginny Helms told McKnight’s Senior Living that at least one member reported “significant confusion” over the application process, but she said that the state is assisting providers in working through applications.

Although LeadingAge Georgia is encouraging members to apply, Helms said that the organization has asked the state to extend the Dec. 1 deadline to work through some of the barriers.

Ramp encouraged providers to check the point of contact listed for their community and, if needed, update that information through the authorized representative form.

Ramp said the process is more of a reimbursement process than an application process. Providers must register for the program by completing a terms and conditions agreement and a vendor agreement form by Thursday. After that, they have up to six months to claim reimbursement for eligible expenses, including COVID-19 testing; personal protective equipment; isolation, quarantine and ventilation improvements; infection control measures; and staffing costs.

Based on a survey of providers conducted in October 2021, Ramp said, Georgia senior living providers experienced more than $780 million in expenses and lost revenue during the pandemic. She called the grant program a “simple way to bring back a tiny percentage of that.”

Ramp said that approximately 1,700 assisted living and personal care home providers operate in the state, with 464 of them eligible for the grant dollars.

“We just don’t want people to miss out,” Ramp said. “It’s so valuable, especially for those smaller providers. It’s a big deal to be able to receive $100,000.”

More information on the grant program is available on the GSLA website and the state Office of Planning and Budget website.