Voters are unhappy that senior living communities have not received adequate federal relief funding for their COVID-19-related expenses, according to the findings of a new Argentum national survey. Results come on the heels of the federal government’s announcement Wednesday of an additional $5 billion dedicated to nursing homes to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced several new initiatives to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19, including new funding, enhanced testing and additional technical assistance and support.

While senior living communities — which house almost 2 million Americans in more than 21,000 communities across the country — are required to follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for personal protective equipment, testing and social distancing, they have yet to see any substantial federal relief, especially compared with the billions of federal dollars provided to nursing homes, according to Argentum.

The association’s survey found that 80% of voters support COVID-19 relief funding for senior living communities, and three-quarters (76%) of respondents said they are more likely to vote for a candidate in the 2020 elections who supports increased relief funding for such communities.

“These past few months, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the residents and staff of our nation’s senior living communities, with many comments having to scramble to procure supplies and protective equipment and support increasing staffing needs, costs and operational changes — all without federal funding,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said. “The findings of this new survey show American voters think the federal government can do more to support senior living providers and shore up resources so that these communities can better protect vulnerable residents and dedicated staff.”

According to the survey results, 59% of respondents disapprove of senior living communities not receiving adequate provider relief funds, with 33% saying they “strongly disapprove.”

In addition, 78% of respondents said they are likely to support provider relief funding for senior living communities to ensure frontline workers have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, access to testing and hero pay.

The survey also revealed that 71% of respondents have a favorable opinion of senior living communities. Of the 48% who have, or have had, a loved one who has lived in a senior living community, the favorable rating increased to 83%.

“Voters instinctually understand that provider relief funding for senior living communities will save the lives of their residents, protect frontline workers, and most importantly, protect the most vulnerable segment of the population — our senior citizens,” the report concludes. 

The Argentum survey was conducted by McLaughlin & Associates of likely 2020 voters. 

Senior living leaders react to nursing home funding announcement 

Meanwhile, in reaction to the news of $5 billion more in funding for nursing homes, industry associations still called on funding for assisted living and other settings in addition to skilled nursing.

American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson said that although the industry appreciates the “much-needed” funding, continued federal support “is vital to helping long-term care facilities keep this virus out of our buildings.”

“While this funding is a significant step forward, it is equally important for Congress to provide an additional $100 billion for the HHS Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible to all healthcare providers impacted by COVID-19, and that a sizable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping both nursing homes and assisted living communities to cover the enormous costs associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus,” he said.

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan called the CMS announcement “a good next step, but any effort must be backed by a coordinated national plan that will help protect millions of older adults.”

“Perhaps the most important question our members — and millions of older adults and their families — have: Is this yet another patch in the patchwork federal response we’ve seen from the administration so far? Or is this announcement a signal that real relief is on its way?” Sloan told McKnight’s Senior Living. “What vulnerable older adults and their care providers really need — in nursing hoes and across all settings — is meaningful support from Congress in the next COVID-19 relief package and a comprehensive strategy from the White House; and we need aging services providers placed at the front of the line alongside hospitals. 

“The lives of millions of older adults are at stake.”