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Spanberger Leads Bipartisan Call for Emergency Funding to Protect Nursing Home & Long-Term Care Facility Staff & Residents as COVID-19 Cases Rise in Central Virginia

On Thursday Afternoon, the Death Toll at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico County in the Congresswoman’s District Rose to 39

Washington, April 10, 2020

HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger led a bipartisan effort urging U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership to include emergency funding for nursing home and long-term care facilities in the next iteration of COVID-19 legislation.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the United States, nursing homes and assisted living facilities—including many in Central Virginia—have experienced growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Yesterday, the death toll at Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Henrico County rose to 39, with 84 residents still infected with COVID-19. Additionally, at least 25 healthcare workers on staff at Canterbury have been infected with COVID-19.

In a letter sent to congressional leaders, Spanberger and 41 of her colleagues outlined the desperate need for personal protective equipment as well as additional funding to attract and retain the necessary staff at long-term facilities that are under extreme duress. The bipartisan letter was co-led by U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10).

“Despite their investments, long-term care facilities still face a shortage of health care workers to care for residents and essential personal protective equipment to keep their workers and residents safe,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “This includes gowns, gloves, surgical masks, N-95 masks, face shields, thermometer covers, and hand sanitizer. Additionally, providers have expressed the need for additional funding to provide pay increases to health care staff as well as to pay for child care stipends for employees while their children are out of school, additional dietary staff to feed residents, and to provide meals for employees working long shifts. These are just a few examples of the challenges that long-term care facilities are enduring, all of which are greatly increasing their expenses. Additional funding in the next package would help skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers across the country experiencing these urgent situations.”

Earlier this week, Spanberger led a bipartisan group of Virginia members in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to swiftly distribute a minimum of $25 billion in federal funding  to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Virginia and across the country.

And last month, Spanberger and U.S. Representative Denver Riggleman (R-VA-05) pressed HHS to use its authorities under the Defense Production Act to provide immediate, additional supplies of personal protective equipment to impacted nursing homes and long-term care centers.

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

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Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer,

Thank you for your leadership with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We appreciate the inclusion of the $100 billion in funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the CARES Act allocated for health care providers to help them fight this virus. COVID-19 is most common among the elderly population, especially those residing in long-term care facilities. These providers face many challenges as they work diligently to address the serious public health risk posed by COVID-19. They are in urgent need of staff, essential supplies, and resources to retain health care workers. Therefore, we write to request that you provide additional funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund with the needs of long-term care facilities in mind in the next funding package.

The elderly population is at high risk from severe illness as a result of COVID-19, and long-term care facilities that care for these older adults are particularly vulnerable to the virus. In the United States, there are 15,583 skilled nursing facilities. Nursing facilities take care of approximately 3,994,972 residents and patients each year through the hard work of 904,982 devoted staff. The average age of a long-stay nursing facility resident is 79 years old and many residents have multiple comorbidities that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19 as well as subsequent, potentially fatal complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 of the more than 15,000 nursing facilities in the U.S. have experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 as of March 30th. It is estimated that there could be as many as 87,000 potential deaths in these communities if action to help these providers is not taken right away. 

As COVID-19 is impacting long-term care facilities throughout the country, these providers have made it a top priority to protect their residents and staff and have already made critical investments to respond to this crisis. Most of these expenditures have been used for staffing and supplies to prevent exposure to COVID-19 among employees and residents.

Despite their investments, long-term care facilities still face a shortage of health care workers to care for residents and essential personal protective equipment to keep their workers and residents safe. This includes gowns, gloves, surgical masks, N-95 masks, face shields, thermometer covers, and hand sanitizer. Additionally, providers have expressed the need for additional funding to provide pay increases to health care staff as well as to pay for child care stipends for employees while their children are out of school, additional dietary staff to feed residents, and to provide meals for employees working long shifts. These are just a few examples of the challenges that long-term care facilities are enduring, all of which are greatly increasing their expenses. Additional funding in the next package would help skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers across the country experiencing these urgent situations. It would specifically benefit facilities that have confirmed COVID-19 cases to help contain the outbreak and facilities that do not have confirmed COVID-19 cases to ensure the virus stays out of their communities.  

The staff and residents in long-term care facilities require immediate support to get them through this crisis. Providing additional funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the next package with the needs of these providers in mind is critical to protecting the elderly and the most vulnerable throughout the country from COVID-19. We look forward to continuing to work with you to keep residents and staff safe as this public health crisis continues in our country.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

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