The U.S. Capitol building

With the possibility that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill could come to the House of Representatives for a vote as early as today, senior living industry leaders are sounding the alarm that the federal government is “abandoning and failing” older adults and their caregivers.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda said it was “unconscionable” that House Democratic leaders, through an amendment, eliminated the $1.8 billion allocated to congregate settings. The move eliminates any reference to senior living from the legislation.

“Assisted living communities have been on the front lines of the pandemic, serving the population most vulnerable to COVID-19 for a full year with little to no federal relief or resources,” Balda said Thursday in a statement. “Assisted living communities have been promised less than 2% of funding from the Provider Relief Fund, and have received only half of that to date.”

More than half of assisted living providers are operating at a loss and in danger of closing their doors in 2021, he said. Those closures will result in lost jobs for workers, lost homes for seniors, and a burden on Medicare and Medicaid that will “skyrocket,” Balda added. 

“With exorbitant costs and declining revenue due to COVID-19, they’re being left behind as other businesses at far less risk stand to receive billions in relief in the American Rescue Plan Act. Enough is enough,” he said. “The federal government is abandoning and failing seniors and their caregivers in their greatest time of need. We need to see action from our legislator now, before it’s too late.”

Argentum previously said the next COVID-19 relief package must include $5 billion for assisted living, independent living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities to help with personal protective equipment, staffing and testing needs.

In a separate statement, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the legislation also falls short on support for low-income older adults living in federally assisted affordable housing, as well as the providers still struggling with the financial consequences of the pandemic.

“They’ve largely been forgotten,” she said. “Congress must adopt legislation to provide more vaccines, regular and rapid testing, access to affordable and abundant PPE, additional staffing support and robust funding necessary to provide 24/7 health and long-term care to the most vulnerable Americans.”

LeadingAge has called for at least $120 billion in Provider Relief Funds for care providers, along with $1.2 billion to address the needs of older adults in Housing and Urban Development-assisted senior housing. A January survey of HUD community providers revealed that the majority did not receive extra financial support to cover COVID-19 expenses or lost revenue.