Congress reached an agreement on a new COVID-19 relief package on Sunday, but for skilled nursing providers, the measures in the bill are at best a preliminary step toward the aid necessary for them to survive the aftershocks of a grueling year.
The bill, which runs to almost 6,000 pages and had not been finalized as of press time, would include a range of steps to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals and businesses. Key provisions, as reported by NPR, include $284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans and about $68 billion for the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and for helping states conduct testing.
Katie Smith Sloan, the president and CEO of LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit senior living and care providers, emphasized in a statement released Sunday that the “crisis is far from over.”
“This is a helpful down payment, but it falls short in providing the necessary relief for older Americans—relief that has been urgently needed for the last 10 months to save the lives and better protect and serve older adults who have suffered 80% of coronavirus deaths,” she said in the statement. “Mission not yet accomplished.”
Sloan argued that providers cannot cope with the need for more testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and staffing support with the relief in the pending legislation.
Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA), called on Congress to do more for relief in the new year by directing aid specifically to long-term care in a statement released Monday.
AHCA represents more than 14,000 primarily for-profit skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.
“While we appreciate the difficulty in reaching a bipartisan compromise, we are disappointed that Congress could not strike a deal that recognizes the dire situation our long term care residents and staff are facing right now,” Parkinson said in the statement. ” Due to soaring community spread, nursing homes are experiencing a record-breaking number of cases and deaths—worse than the spring … Facilities will not be able to return to normal for some time, meaning providers need ongoing support with PPE, testing and staffing.”
He also noted that almost two-thirds of long-term care facilities are operating at a loss, with only “minimal” additional funds from the Provider Relief Fund for all health care providers in the legislation.
“Hundreds of facilities are in danger of closing their doors permanently and uprooting the frail seniors they care for,” Parkinson said in the statement.
Sloan had a similar exhortation for the next Congress, since providers are already struggling.
“Some providers are shutting down, and more will follow unless the next Congress steps up and provides more robust support,” she said in her statement. “The federal government will also need to expedite relief payments, since it has taken months for the government to get the funds Congress appropriated into providers’ hands.”