Senior couple walking down a hallway

(Credit: Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images)

American voters, concerned about the long-term sustainability of senior living, overwhelmingly support the federal government targeting the sector for COVID-19 relief and workforce support, according to a new poll.

In a national survey released Tuesday by sponsor Argentum, 86% of respondents said that the Biden administration should focus on COVID-19 relief funding for senior living communities, and 77% said they believe that the remaining $20 billion in the Provider Relief Fund for pandemic support should go to assisted living caregivers.

Fifty-six percent of respondents also said that relief dollars allocated to senior living to date are not enough. Senior living has received only 1% of all federal COVID-19 relief funding to date, and less than 0.4% of distributions from the Provider Relief Fund have gone to assisted living providers. Argentum has said that senior living operators have incurred approximately $30 billion in expenses and losses during the pandemic.

Those figures reveal an increase from a summer 2020 Argentum poll, which showed 80% of voters agreeing that assisted living communities should receive federal COVID-19 relief dollars. 

ReconMR and MBE Research completed the online national survey of 1,000 voters from Nov. 11 to 17. 

“With each new variant of COVID-19, America’s senior citizens and their caregivers face anew the challenges that confronted us all two years ago when this pandemic began,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said. “Americans overwhelmingly want action by policymakers in Washington, D.C., to target pandemic relief to those caring for the most vulnerable to the coronavirus and all of the emerging variants.”

The poll also revealed that respondents are worried about the long-term sustainability of senior living. 

Worker shortages caused by the pandemic were concerning for 89% of respondents. Apprehension was slightly higher among older respondents than their younger counterparts, and individuals who had a loved one living in a senior living community were slightly more concerned than those who did not.

Participants also expressed concern about the viability of senior living communities, with 45% indicating that they are “very concerned” that the communities may close due to funding shortages. Rounding out the responses: 42% said they were “somewhat concerned,” 9% said they were “not very concerned” and 4% said they were “not at all concerned.”

Balda called the poll results “startling,” adding that the poll reveals that voters find it “unacceptable” that the communities older adults call home are “under threat.”

When it comes to addressing the crisis in senior living, 43% of poll-takers indicated that they have more trust in state governors and legislatures than in President Biden (38%) and Congress (19%). Older respondents were more likely to say they trust governors and legislatures, whereas younger respondents pinned their hopes slightly more on Biden.