As legislative committees work on how to divvy up the $3.5 trillion approved by the House of Representatives earlier this week in the fiscal year 2022 budget resolution, the senior living and care industry is pushing its caregiver infrastructure agenda to benefit older adults and their caregivers.

At stake are investments in home- and community-based services, affordable housing and the aging services workforce.

The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living called on Congress to remember older adults and their caregivers during the legislative process.

“Long-term care residents and staff must remain at the forefront in these forthcoming discussions,” AHCA / NCAL said in a statement to McKnight’s Senior Living. “The global pandemic still rages on; meanwhile long-term care is grappling with a growing workforce and economic crisis. We call on lawmakers to support our most vulnerable by investing in the frontline caregivers they need.”

The $3.5 trillion package may include elements of President Biden’s proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, including $400 billion for the expansion of home- and community-based services.

“$3.5 trillion is a ton of money,” Argentum Director of Government Relations Dan Samson said during an Argentum Advocates briefing on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of moving pieces.”

Argentum and LeadingAge are heavily advocating for the $400 billion investment in Medicaid HCBS, part of the proposed Better Care Better Jobs Act that would implement the American Jobs Plan. In May, the federal government acknowledged assisted living as a provider of HCBS for the first time in its discussion of the plan; previously, discussion focused on the home.

The money would support identifying and serving eligible older adults, doubling the investment in the Older Americans Act supportive services, connecting HCBS and Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted affordable housing units, and investing in new models of care to support older adults in the home and community. 

According to the NCAL, one in six assisted living residents relies on Medicaid for their daily care. Eligibility and benefit standards for Medicaid HCBS vary among states, and more than 820,000 Americans are on wait lists.

“We are strongly advocating and educating lawmakers on the nature of senior living communities and how they are home to two million seniors,” Samson said. “We’re using ‘home’ to underscore the points for HCBS.” 

Another LeadingAge priority is a $7.5 billion investment in HUD’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. The investment would expand the supply of affordable senior housing, increase the number of service coordinators, allow for age-friendly building retrofits, and provide internet in HUD-assisted homes.

Tuesday, HUD Secretary Marsha Fudge and White House staff members reiterated their commitment to investments in affordable housing, including affordable housing for the elderly. 

American Seniors Housing President David Schless said that although ASHA has remained focused on securing a much-needed Phase 4 allocation from the Provider Relief Fund, he said the association backs certain aspects of the budget resolution package.

“We are supportive of elements in the budget resolution package that are helpful to older adults, including enhancements to Medicare and Medicaid long-term services and supports that would allow more low-income seniors to benefit from assisted living,” Schless said. “ASHA has also, however, expressed our concerns about potential changes to the tax code that could hinder economic growth and discourage older adults from accessing the benefits of senior living communities.”