The impact of COVID-19 on the senior living industry could be $40 billion to $50 billion over the next year, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said Wednesday in a Yahoo Finance interview.

The estimate echoes one made last month when Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking for $20 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for companies operating independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities.

James Balda headshot
Argentum President and CEO James Balda

“The impact on our industry could be anywhere from $40 [billion] to over $50 billion over the next 12 months. And this crisis will continue in our communities for the next 12 months until, ultimately, there is a vaccine,” Balda said Wednesday. “We’ve been working with Congress, as well as the White House and the administration, to make the case that our providers need financial support just as the hospitals had received support and just as skilled nursing facilities had received support.”

Senior living providers are doing everything they can to protect their residents during the COVID-19 crisis, Balda said, but those actions come at a cost, including escalating expenses for staffing and supplies.

“We’ve really been advocating to make sure that our providers get access to funding to help offset these costs,” he told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel. 

The industry is seeing effects on both the revenue and expense side, the CEO said. Projections show labor costs increasing by more than 20% and supply costs increasing by more than 100%, Balda added. At the same time, communities have limited access to buildings and have restricted move-ins to prevent or contain the virus, moves that have led to a decrease in income.

One concern is that, as the country begins to open up and people’s lives return to a new normal, senior living communities will “continue to be in crisis mode” as they try to protect their residents, he said.

Long term, however, Balda said the prospects for the industry are positive, adding that people choose to move into senior living communities for the supports they need and the socialization they want.

Looking to the future, Balda said there have been discussions about the physical structure of buildings on new projects and that operators will continue with enhanced infection control protocols. 

Senior living communities will have more positive outcomes than nursing homes largely due to that physical structure of the buildings, he predicted. Although nursing home residents often share rooms, senior living residents typically have their own apartments, allowing them to self-quarantine or isolate if necessary, Balda said.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • As the death toll in long-term care rises and COVID-19 testing capacity slowly expands, states are each crafting new testing policies to prevent and contain outbreaks in facilities, where more than half of coronavirus deaths have occurred in many states. In New Jersey, for instance, a directive required assisted living communities and other settings to provide COVID-19 baseline testing of all staff and residents by May 26.
  • Long-term care facilities have become a flashpoint in the COVID-19 pandemic, with high infection rates and low staffing exacerbated by the demands of the pandemic. A professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University and her doctoral students joined a team to make the hiring process more efficient.
  • As Massachusetts discloses the death toll by nursing home, multiple gaps exist in the data, suggesting that the number of deaths in senior care is much higher than the numbers say. Missing from the data are deaths at assisted living communities and publicly financed senior living residences, which are home to thousands of residents but have different regulators.
  • The White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states are debating the proper theoretical (and politically beneficial) way to tally COVID-19 deaths. What is needed is a single and clear national testing strategy outline who must be tested, when and with which test, according to an opinion piece published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Carrie Kuhr, senior executive director of The Inn at Olentangy Trail and The Inn at Bear Trail in Columbus, OH, wrote a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch about the need for funding of assisted living communities that are accumulating COVID-19-related costs.
  • A French senior care home has developed a plastic “happiness bubble” to help residents safely see their loved ones and friends during the pandemic.
  • Telehealth use by older adults during the coronavirus pandemic is still low, according to a pair of surveys, even though seniors have access to the technology and those who are using telehealth are giving it high marks.

Related Articles