Fla. Lawmaker Pushes FEMA to Put SNFs First After Power Outages

A Florida congresswoman is calling for more assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help prevent another scenario like the one that led to the deaths of 14 residents at a Florida nursing home that lost power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September.

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, a Democrat, recently added new language to the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, a bipartisan House of Representatives bill meant to address the rising cost of disasters in the U.S. and reform federal programs to better prepare for them.

Specifically, the Florida congresswoman’s addition would require authorities responding to a widespread power outage caused by a disaster to put long-term care facilities and hospitals at the forefront of their efforts, according to a press release.


“The measure requires FEMA to provide much-needed disaster response guidance and assistance to ensure that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are better prioritized and can function or return to functioning status as soon as possible during and after power outages,” Wilson told her colleagues on Nov. 30. “This is a top priority for me.”

Fourteen residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died in the days and weeks after the nursing home lost power in the wake of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 13. Last month, 12 of those deaths were ruled homicides.

“On the heels on this tragedy, I vowed to do everything within my power to improve nursing homes’ emergency preparedness to save lives in Florida and across the nation,” Wilson said. “The nursing home-related language in this bill is a big step toward that goal.”


Wilson also planned to introduce legislation that would require nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that receive federal funding to have a backup generator or another power source to protect residents during outages—mirroring fellow Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 23rd Congressional district.

The Wasserman Schultz plan would also require utility companies to bump SNFs to the front of the line, a policy aim applauded by industry groups such as LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association.

Written by Tim Regan

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