LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan

As the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act appears to be headed for President Biden’s desk for his signature in the coming days without additional direct relief for most aging services providers, LeadingAge is advocating for help for nonrural providers and operators of affordable senior housing communities.

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said Monday that the bill includes several provisions that will help providers mitigate COVID-29 and vaccinate older adults and their caregivers, but she added, “There is still work to do to support older Americans, because the bill leaves out relief for affordable senior housing providers for COVID-related services.”

The bill provides $8.5 billion in Provider Relief Funds for rural providers, including assisted living and home- and community-based services providers; $219 billion to state and local government to provide assistance to small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic; and premium pay for essential workers, including long-term care frontline staff members, she said.

“While it does deliver provider relief funds to rural providers, it fails to deliver relief to nonrural aging services providers throughout the continuum,” Sloan said.

LeadingAge has called for at least $120 billion in Provider Relief fund assistance, access to vaccines and rapid testing, affordable personal protective equipment and staffing support across the continuum. At least $40 billion to $50 billion should be designated specifically for aging services providers through the Provider Relief Fund, Sloan said. 

The association said its next steps will include advocating to include the needs of its members in an infrastructure bill that is on the horizon.

Fund targeted for assisted living aid

As McKnight’s Senior Living reported Monday, Argentum said it led an effort by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that saw the Saturday introduction of an amendment to the COVID relief legislation that would have provided $35 billion in additional relief for healthcare providers, including assisted living operators, to cover healthcare-related expenses and lost revenues due to COVID-19. Although the amendment failed, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said the effort represented “forward progress.”

Balda previously said that the role of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provider Relief Fund has become even more important to operators since dedicated coronavirus relief for senior living communities was left out of the relief package.

American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson previously said the groups are advocating that $25 billion in unallocated Provider Relief Fund monies continue to provide support for the long-term care industry, especially assisted living, which has received little financial relief to date from the federal government. AHCA / NCAL also is asking state governments, which could receive $200 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act, to examine their Medicaid programs and provide assistance for providers adversely affected by the pandemic.

$1.2 billion sought for affordable senior housing

LeadingAge previously said that operators of affordable senior housing communities need $1.2 billion to underwrite service coordinators and wireless internet access along with covering pandemic-related costs tied to cleaning, PPE, services and staffing.

A January survey of LeadingAge members that are HUD community providers found that most did not receive extra financial support to cover COVID-19 costs for unexpected expenses or revenue loss.

March 1, LeadingAge sent a letter urging HUD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the White House’s Domestic Policy Council to work together to prioritize HUD-supported affordable housing communities for vaccines. LeadingAge also is seeking access to COVID-19 vaccine partners to provide on-site clinics for residents and staff.

The letter noted that the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program brought vaccine clinics to fewer than half of HUD Section 202 Housing for the Elderly buildings, leaving thousands of at-risk communities behind. The association also noted that the Retail Pharmacy Program does not identify or facilitate the on-site clinics that are needed at these settings. 

“Thousands of high-risk, HUD-supported communities remain without vaccine access,” the letter read. The effort is supported by the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, the National Affordable Housing Management Association, the National Leased Housing Association and the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association.