James Balda headshot
Argentum President and CEO James Balda

Senior living providers need an additional $5 billion in funding to address “immediate and urgent needs” related to COVID-19 rapid testing, screening and, ultimately, vaccinations, Argentum’s leader told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a letter Friday.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda also “strenuously” urged that additional funding be placed in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provider Relief Fund in another relief package.

“Based on industry estimates, upfront COVID-19 related expenses related to community population needs for testing, staffing and personal protective equipment will surpass $11 billion,” Balda wrote. “To win the COVID-19 battle, senior living communities and the workforce that cares for this vulnerable population must be prioritized, and additional funds for the Provider Relief Fund is critical.”

Balda pointed out that senior living communities care for the same vulnerable populations as other long-term care facilities but have only received “a fraction of federal relief.” Monday was the deadline for assisted living operators and others to begin their applications for funding from the Provider Relief Fund phase 2 general distribution allocation, months after federal aid was announced for nursing homes in March. Approximately 540,000 COVID-19 antigen tests recently were shipped to assisted living communities, but nursing homes were sent 1 million of the tests in addition to previously being sent other tests.

“To combat the spread of the virus, senior living operators have taken extraordinary measures and suffered billions of dollars in financial loss,” Balda wrote. “Senior living communities are not nursing homes, but we care for and protect the same vulnerable populations.”

Although priority access to a vaccine, once one is available, looks promising, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association sent a joint letter to the administration and congressional leaders recently asking for their help in ensuring that senior living residents and workers have such priority access. 

The senior living industry, Balda said, will be the “cornerstone” for implementing rapid testing and vaccinations in communities, but “urgent financial resources” are needed for any abatement program to be effective.

“The costs of caring for those most at risk of infection cannot be overstated, and current financial losses are simply not sustainable,” he wrote.