Glasses on top of paper bill legislation
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Senior living advocates are claiming “major victories” for the industry following the release of the proposed $1.7 trillion congressional year-end spending bill on Monday.

The omnibus spending package, if signed into law as written, would give a “huge boost” to senior living priorities, including workforce development and job training programs, hurricane disaster relief and Alzheimer’s research, they told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Lawmakers are pushing for passage of the omnibus package ahead of Friday’s deadline to avert a government shutdown.

Workforce development, disaster relief are big winners

Argentum called the package a “significant victory for senior living communities.” The association said the proposals could have “an immediate and long-lasting” positive effect on the industry.

“These are big wins for the senior living industry,” said Maggie Elehwany, Argentum senior vice president of public affairs. “This significant investment in workforce, with a focus on senior care within the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor, will have a profound impact on our industry within the next year and decades to come.”

Workforce development provisions in the package include $285 million to expand opportunities through apprenticeship grants, cooperative agreements, contracts and other arrangements. Another $65 million is allocated to Strengthening Community College Training Grants, and $1.75 billion for Job Corps.

Paul Williams, Argentum vice president of government relations, said he was grateful for efforts to secure disaster relief funding for senior living providers, businesses and communities affected by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona. 

The package includes $5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Disaster Relief Fund to bolster hurricane recovery efforts. Argentum previously worked with Florida lawmakers to secure $858 million through the Small Business Administration Disaster Loans Program to help senior living operators and other businesses repair or replace real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment.

Immigration reform, veterans bill don’t make the cut

The American Seniors Housing Association told McKnight’s Senior Living that its two key issues, immigration reform and the expansion of access to assisted living for veterans, were “thwarted by a very competitive legislative environment and a shortage of time.” 

But Jeanne McGlynn Delgado, ASHA vice president of government affairs, said she was hopeful that the issues will be reintroduced in the 118th Congress in the new year.

ASHA was among provider groups advocating for inclusion of the Expanding Veterans Options for Long Term Care Act (S 4169 / HR 8750) into a year-end legislative package. Although the bill didn’t make the cut, Delgadao said that ASHA is “encouraged” by commitments from Senate sponsors to reintroduce it in the new year. 

“This will give us another opportunity to advance this policy through a pilot program with the VA to inform future policy decisions and programs that include assisted living options for veterans,” Delgado said.

On the immigration front, she said, ASHA urged Congress to pass legislation “that works for Americans, immigrants and the US business industries” in desperate need of workers, particularly in the long-term care industry.

ASHA still is pushing for action during the lame duck season on immigration reform. The association called on lawmakers to still address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Temporary Protected Status Program and other essential worker reforms that can mitigate worker shortages.

“We believe enacting these policies is a good first step to a more specific and ambitious agenda to create a visa category for senior living frontline workers, which ASHA will prioritize in the 118th Congress,” Delgado said.

Affordable housing investments among other funded areas

Other senior living priorities included in the proposed spending package:

  • Alzheimer’s disease research would receive an increase of $226 million, along with a $500 million increase for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health to accelerate the pace of scientific breakthroughs for Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer and diabetes
  • An extension of Medicare rules allowing expanded access to telehealth services through 2024, and allowing employers to offer telehealth services. 
  • Low-income senior housing would benefit from $258.3 million to build more than 2,800 new affordable housing units for older adults and persons with disabilities. The package also includes another $1 billion for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, including $25 million to expand housing units to intergenerational families and to build almost 1,120 new affordable housing units.
  • The package also includes language from the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which could result in older adults having more money to pay for long-term services and supports.

Congress still must vote on the package and send it to President Biden for his signature, but Argentum indicated that it does not expect any major changes from the text of the legislation released Tuesday.

Read about the package’s potential effects on skilled nursing and home care providers in our sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Home Care, respectively.