Senior living is looking for a piece of the latest $350 billion pandemic relief pie that was announced Monday for state and local governments.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The plan permits state and local governments to distribute relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and extend “support for industries hardest hit by the crisis.” 

Argentum, which requested support in March from the Treasury Department, is eyeing the discretionary use of the funding for assisted living communities. Argentum President and CEO James Balda said the association and its state partners have been meeting with governors and state legislators to request prioritized funding.

“We are extremely pleased that additional resources may soon be on their way to help these communities — many of whom are still struggling from steep costs and lost revenue due to COVID-19,” Balda said. “We are also continuing to ask HHS to release additional unallocated funding to assisted living communities, allowing them to keep their doors open and continue to provide the care and services seniors need.”

Argentum is working to share more details on its proposed SENIOR (Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources) Act, which it said would address immediate COVID-19-related challenges and plans for future long-term care needs. 

A LeadingAge spokesperson said the guidance sets the stage for state and local governments to support aging services across all settings, including assisted living. 

“Treasury provides the flexibility needed for this important relief to get out quickly,” the spokesperson said. 

Brendan Flinn, director of LeadingAge Medicaid and HCBS policy, said Monday during a call with members that speculation exists that a significant portion of the dollars will go toward replacing lost public sector revenue, but the guidance is flexible. 

Funding options that span the aging services spectrum, Finn said, include premium pay for eligible essential workers; coverage of COVID019 expenses for long-term care facilities and other health settings, which could include home- and community-based services; loan and grant programs for small business and nonprofits; aid to pandemic-affected industries; and the development of affordable housing and supportive housing services.

LeadingAge outlined its support of further investment in aging services in its Blueprint for a Better Aging Infrastructure.

A spokesperson from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living told McKnight’s Senior Living that the groups encourage state and local governments to prioritize and swiftly distribute the aid to long-term care.

“We were the epicenter of the pandemic, with caregivers putting their lives on the line every day to protect vulnerable residents,” the spokesperson said. “Now, assisted living communities and nursing homes are struggling to recover due to the economic crisis the pandemic also caused, threatening access to care for millions of seniors. We are not out of the woods yet, and our long-term care residents and staff need ongoing resources and support.”

Noting that state and local governments have cut more than 1 million jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, the Treasury Department stated that jurisdictions have “substantial flexibility” in using the recovery funds to meet local needs. 

The federal government lists addressing negative economic effects caused by the public health emergency as an acceptable use of funds. Jurisdictions also can use recovery funds to support public health expenditures, aid communities and populations hardest hit by the crisis, provide premium pay for essential workers, and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement that insufficient federal aid during the Great Recession and its aftermath “undermined and slowed the nation’s broader recovery.”  The funding announced today, she said, will help cities and states chart a faster course “back to prosperity.”

Funding is expected to be distributed beginning this month, and states and entities will have until the end of 2024 to spend it.