After $15.6 billion in supplemental coronavirus relief funding was cut from the $1.5 trillion omnibus package — signed Wednesday by President Biden — the White House is sounding the alarm over the potential consequences to the nation’s efforts to combat the spread of the virus.
In a Tuesday briefing, the Biden administration said that as the nation enters a “new moment” in the pandemic, Congress has not provided the funding necessary to continue the COVID-19 response.
Without additional funding, the administration said, the country will not have enough vaccines, monoclonal antibody treatments or testing supplies for the second half of the year. A lack of funding also will reduce surveillance and research into emerging variants and damage the global vaccination and treatment efforts.
Argentum President and CEO James Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living that assisted living operators “know all too well what it is like to fight this tragic pandemic without the necessary funding.” He said it’s “ironic” that the Biden administration is saying additional COVID-19 funds are needed or services will be cut.
“Because assisted living providers have not been prioritized since day one of this pandemic, or even considered for targeted relief and support in most cases, there are senior living communities across the country under intense financial pressure to survive,” Balda said. “The administration continues to ignore our urgent messaging, as well as the pleas from our many supporters in Congress, that it’s well past time to put the nation’s 2 million residents of assisted living and memory care communities at the front of the line for COVID relief and support.”
He added that, despite the success of the federal vaccination response in assisted living communities over the past two years, the Biden administration won’t renew the program “for what promises to be the need for a fourth vaccination for seniors in the coming months.”
“Seniors in assisted living communities have a target on their back when it comes to COVID,” Balda said. “For the administration to plead poverty when it comes to funding COVID-related programs and offering relief to our communities is a result of misappropriation of the Provider Relief Fund in the first place.”
American Seniors Housing Association President and CEO David Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living that now is not the time to let COVID vaccine and testing supplies dwindle.
“As we say, while most Americans are done with COVID, COVID is not done with us, specifically those who work and live in senior living communities,” Schless said, adding that it would be “irresponsible” to neglect funding as reports of an omicron variant emerge.
But he warned that Congress should not look at raiding the limited funding remaining in the Provider Relief Fund, as it had previously. Schless said ASHA is “very concerned” that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration is not moving fast enough to deliver Phase 4 PRF payments to assisted living providers.
“While these payments fall far short of the level of support this industry needs based on their losses due to COVID-19, HRSA needs to accelerate the process and make full payments on all assisted living applications,” Schless said.
He added that ASHA continues to advocate for replenishment of the PRF, saying “senior living providers have been waiting long enough.”
LeadingAge Senior Vice President of Public Policy / Advocacy Ruth Katz told McKnight’s Senior Living that COVID continues to affect older adults and their caregivers.
“A cut to funding for COVID response would send a devastating message to older adults, to their families and to professional caregivers,” she said.
In January, LeadingAge sent a letter to the Biden administration calling for additional help for the aging services industry, including more Provider Relief Fund money, a supply of therapeutics and a testing supply system dedicated to aging services.
The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living sent a letter last month outlining its request for additional resources for long-term care, including additional aid through the Provider Relief Fund.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” an AHCA / NCAL spokeswoman told McKnight’s Senior Living. “We need Congress and the administration to prioritize long-term care for resources, as our residents are most vulnerable to this virus.”