Diverse group of women are nursing or medical students at local university
(Credit: Courtney Hale / Getty Images)
Diverse group of women are nursing or medical students at local university
(Credit: Courtney Hale / Getty Images)

Workforce development and increased access to assisted living are the key provisions of an updated bipartisan bill backed by Argentum.

US Reps. Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Brian Fitpatrick (R-PA) introduced a scaled back Safeguarding Elderly Needs through Innovation & Occupational Resources Act (SENIOR Act) Friday. 

Key provisions include a cost-reduction program to make assisted living more affordable for lower-income older adults and workforce training programs.

A senior care cost reduction program would target affordability in assisted living by providing eligible low-income older adults who are aged 70 or more years with a monthly $1,000 grant to put toward the cost of assisted living. States would have to submit applications to be eligible for funding, which would come from Older Americans Act Title III dollars that fund community-based services that help older adults maintain health and independence, as well as provide access to services.

The bill also would redirect existing Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor workforce training programs, such as Job Corps and American Job Centers, to offer specializations in senior care. Argentum said that that provision would strengthen the senior living labor force by investing in workforce development programs designed to meet the needs of older adults.

“The SENIOR Act represents the most consequential investment in workforce development for assisted living communities to date,” Argentum Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Maggie Elehwany said in a statement. “Time is of the essence — the US will need to fill more than 20 million jobs by 2040 to care for America’s seniors. Additionally, this important bill takes a significant step in making our communities more accessible to more seniors.” Of the 20 million figure, 3 million of the jobs will be needed by senior living providers, Argentum previously has said; the other 17 million jobs will be needed by other types of long-term care providers.

The SENIOR Act first surfaced in early 2022 and was reintroduced in 2023, but it did not advance beyond an initial committee referral. The original act sought to create a $10 billion sustainability fund for senior living providers that could demonstrate significant and uncompensated pandemic-related losses, along with $1.25 billion in new workforce development grants.

At the time, Argentum called the SENIOR Act a “preemptive, proactive, cost-effective way to invest resources to help protect the pandemic spread.”

Medicaid and Medicare are the largest public payers, accounting for a combined 64% of all long-term care spending. Medicaid long-term care spending was $136 billion in 2020 — a figure that is projected to reach $466 billion by 2050. The bill’s sponsors said that strengthening cost-effective models of long-term care services and developing the nation’s aging services workforce will reduce federal and state Medicaid spending. 

Senior living lost 107,000 workers between 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between February and May 2020, the combined long-term care sector lost 402,000 jobs. By 2040, long-term care settings will have an estimated 20 million job openings — 3 million of those in senior living — escalating the need to recruit and retain workers, according to Argentum.