Senator Susan Collins talks at June 11, 2020, Aging Committee hearing.

As Democrats continue plans to move forward with a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and Republicans meet with President Biden to discuss a $600 billion counter offer, senior living industry executives are reminding them to make older adults a priority.

More funding

The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living on Monday urged Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief bill that includes assistance for long-term care — specifically $100 billion in additional funds to the Provider Relief Fund, and prioritization for testing and personal protective equipment resources.

“Long-term care providers have suffered significant financial hardships due to the pandemic. The high cost of testing, PPE and staff support has caused tremendous strain on budgets,” said a statement from the association.

AHCA / NCAL reiterated that more than half of assisted living communities are operating at a loss and that many members have said that they will be forced to close within a year without further assistance. 

“We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes that were made at the outset of the pandemic,” AHCA / NCAL stated. “Long-term care workers continue to do everything in their power to protect their residents, but they need ongoing support. Additional funding from Congress will ensure they have the resources necessary to continue the fight. Congress must act now and put long-term care first.”

Advocacy campaign

LeadingAge launched an advocacy campaign last week, calling for immediate action to protect older Americans “who have suffered most from the coronavirus and insufficient federal action.”

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan called on Biden and Congress to make 2021 a “new beginning for older Americans.” Sloan reiterated LeadingAge’s action plan that outlines almost four dozen recommendations that the new administration could take in its first 30 days, 100 days and first year.

Aging services providers are urging Congress to adopt legislation addressing a coordinated vaccination program, a national testing program, staffing, funding for pandemic-related costs and funding to support older adults living in affordable senior housing. 

“This unprecedented crisis has been made worse by insufficient federal action sending a message that the lives of older Americans are expendable,” Sloan said in a statement. “Providers on the front line caring for millions of older adults still need urgent relief in the form of more testing, PPE, staffing support and funding to save and protect lives from this highly contagious virus.”

American Rescue Plan

Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes an initiative to “protect vulnerable populations in congregate settings,” including funding for states to deploy strike teams to long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as protections for frontline workers in the form of standards, paid emergency and sick leave requirements and benefits. The relief proposal also calls for investing in COVID-19 treatments, a national vaccination program and expanded COVID-19 testing, as well as a $15 per hour federal minimum wage. 

Senior living industry leaders have expressed appreciation that Biden’s administration is taking COVID-19 seriously, but they said the plan may not go far enough to meet the needs of senior living and care providers.

Republican proposal

Meanwhile, a group of 10 Republican senators on Sunday unveiled a $600 billion relief proposal that reduces funding in several key Democratic priority areas, including state and local aid, direct stimulus checks, unemployment insurance and the federal minimum wage.

The group, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), sent a letter to the White House Sunday requesting a meeting on the proposal. Others signing onto the proposal include Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), M. Michael Rounds (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Todd Young (R-IN).

The Republican proposal includes a round of $1,000 stimulus checks for people earning up to $50,000, $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits through June, $50 billion for small business relief and $160 billion for vaccines, testing and PPE. 

Biden was expected to meet with the Senators Monday night.