After months of applying pressure and campaigning for relief funding, senior living industry experts welcomed Friday’s announcement of the federal government’s release of $25.5 billion in new funding to cover COVID-related losses of healthcare providers, including assisted living operators. 

They are wary of the fine print, however, and are ready to continue the fight, if necessary.

The new funding, available through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, includes $17 billion in Phase 4 Provider Relief Fund dollars covering a broad range of providers — including assisted living — and $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for Medicaid providers.

Argentum said the association is continuing to seek clarification on the specific distribution criteria.

“We are hopeful the Biden administration has recognized the significant COVID-related losses senior living facilities have incurred and ensured they are eligible for this new round of federal relief funds,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said. He added that he was looking forward to learning the details as the organization continues to fight to secure equitable relief to “prevent a financial disaster that could threaten millions of American seniors.”

One day prior to the announcement of the release of the funds, Balda had cited the federal government’s “neglect” of the senior living industry as President Biden announced COVID vaccination-related requirements for companies with 100 or more workers — while assisted living operators had waited more than 500 days since provider relief was signed into law.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said the financial aid announced Friday is “long overdue.”

“Nursing homes and assisted living communities continue to spend billions of dollars to fight COVID while grappling with an economic and workforce crisis spurred by the pandemic,” Parkinson said. “These federal funds are critical in helping providers acquire the ongoing staff support, personal protective equipment and testing they need to protect our residents and staff members, as well as prevent facility closures.”

Parkinson said he hopes the aid is “delivered swiftly to the frontlines.”

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said she was “thrilled” that the application process for additional Provider Relief Fund money is being opened. Structuring the Phase 4 allocations to address the specific financial challenges of medium and small providers also is welcome news, she added.

“Aging services providers, who operate on narrow margins in the best of times, need relief after more than a year of shouldering significant COVID-related costs,” Sloan said. “For them, the pandemic is not over; many are weighed down by losses and ongoing expenses for [personal protective equipment], resident and staff testing, and support to retain staff.”

American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless said that after months of intense lobbying, he’s pleased about the Phase 4 allocation and the formal opportunity to appeal Phase 2 or 3 Provider Relief Fund payments — or nonpayments. But he, too, said it’s unclear what level of funding will be allocated to assisted living.

“It has been clear for the last 18 months that the senior living industry rose to the challenge of COVID,” Schless said. “However, they have done so at great expense and sacrifice, and deserve to be finally recognized for their significant efforts with this supplemental financial assistance.”

Schless said the Provider Relief Fund dollars will “help the industry get back on sound footing.”

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