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A $2.1 billion federal investment in infection prevention and control measures across the healthcare continuum — including $500 million for long-term care strike teams — is welcome news to the senior living industry, which continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic with limited resources and staffing shortages.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the funding, made through the American Rescue Plan, on Friday for 15,400 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, including senior living communities; 6,000 hospitals; 7,900 dialysis clinics; and 4,700 ambulatory surgery centers, as well as other outpatient settings. The money will be used to assist healthcare workers in preventing infections, support rapid response to detect and contain infectious organisms and enhance laboratory capacity.

Although it is unclear exactly how directly the money will affect senior living, experts say the industry at minimum will benefit indirectly from improvements and resources for infection prevention and control.

American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless told McKnight’s Senior Living that although the senior living industry was largely overlooked when states and the federal government provided infection control resources to other healthcare providers, operators “did their very best even in the face of scarce supplies, such as personal protective equipment, test kits and staffing shortages.”

“We welcome this significant investment by the federal government to provide resources to help the long-term care industry, including senior living communities, as they continue to face staffing shortages and require support for COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all settings,” Schless said. 

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said that all Americans will benefit from the funding, which should make the public health system stronger. She said that she particularly appreciates the $500 million allocation to staff, train and deploy strike teams to providers experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Frontline staff are weary from battling COVID for 18 months; the promise of fresh teams is both heartening and greatly needed to ensure the well-being of older adults,” Sloan said. “One important lesson from this crisis is that our healthcare system is interconnected. This investment in infection prevention and control activities is a welcome acknowledgement of that interdependence across the public health and healthcare sectors and the support needed to ensure safety and wellbeing.”

A spokeswoman from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living told McKnight’s Senior Living that the association hopes that states will use the funding immediately but added that long-term care facilities need additional resources to address the “crisis at-hand.”

“The workforce crisis in long-term care is at an all-time high, stretching current caregivers thin and limiting our ability to accept new residents,” AHCA / NCAL said. “Meanwhile, COVID continues to run rampant among the general public, impacting long-term care facilities across the country. Once again, we call on Congress to implement long-term solutions with proper funding that will help us resolve this unprecedented economic and workforce crisis.”

Over the next three years, the CDC will provide $1.25 billion to 64 state, local and territorial health departments to support the work. Initial awards totaling $885 million will be made in October.

The federal agency will use the majority of that initial funding, $500 million, in partnership with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to staff, train and deploy strike teams to assist long-term care facilities with known or suspected COVID-19 outbreaks. Those teams will provide surge capacity to facilities for clinical services, to address staffing shortages and to strengthen infection prevention and control activities, including support for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

The remaining $385 million of the initial award will support public health departments, increase state and regional laboratory capacity to conduct surveillance testing for emerging pathogens, implement infection prevention and control training and education programs for frontline healthcare staff members, increase data monitoring and analyze antibiotic use.

Another $880 million will help healthcare partners, academic institutions and other nonprofit partners develop new prevention interventions and capacities for infection prevention and control training, data collection and technical assistance.