Spanberger Leads Bipartisan Effort Calling on HHS to Rapidly Distribute Remaining Relief Funds to Long-Term Care Facilities Impacted by COVID-19

Apr 20, 2021
Healthcare
Press

The Congresswoman Led 58 Additional Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Pressing HHS Secretary Becerra to Allocate the Remaining $23 Billion in the Provider Relief Fund, Which was Established through the CARES Act in March 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today led a bipartisan effort of 59 Member of Congress in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to quickly distribute remaining provider relief funds to senior living facility operators in Central Virginia and across the country.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Spanberger and her colleagues called on HHS to quickly provide assistance to these facilities, which continue facing extraordinary costs in procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 tests, and necessary staff — all while facing record-low occupancy rates. Specifically, they urged Secretary Becerra to target additional funding from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) — which is estimated to include an additional $23 billion of congressionally approved funding still available — toward assisted living facilities.

The letter is co-led by U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16)

“We continue to hear from providers in our respective states, that without additional financial relief, many will not be able to sustain operations. For the senior residents of these communities, this could mean losing their caregiver and their home,” said Spanberger, Gonzalez, and 57 of their colleagues. “An analysis by your agency on the funds from the PRF dispersed to skilled nursing facilities versus assisted living facilities is warranted considering they serve a similar vulnerable population.”

Their letter continued, “It is estimated that approximately $23 billion remains in the PRF and a proportional allocation of funds to these senior care facilities would signal that this Administration remains dedicated to helping our nation’s seniors and their families. We will work with you to ensure that these essential facilities that serve our nation’s most vulnerable population receive the resources they need to continue to protect their residents and staff.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Rep. Spanberger for leading this effort and to the dozens of other supporting signers for their commitment to seeking a fair and equitable allocation of the remaining resources in the Provider Relief Fund to seniors and caregivers,” said James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum. “Providers across senior living have shouldered tremendous losses and expenses as a result of COVID-19, and they have received little federal relief to date. This funding is essential to ensuring they have the support needed to continue the heroic work of caring for our nation’s seniors.”

“The Virginia Assisted Living Association (VALA) is thankful to Representative Abigail Spanberger and each of the Co-Signors of the bipartisan letter supporting additional relief for senior living providers, especially assisted living communities,” said Judy M. Hackler, Executive Director, Virginia Assisted Living Association. “Assisted living providers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic providing life-saving care and support to some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens during this unprecedented situation. Assisted living providers have been expected to continue their operations with substantial increases in expenses and a significant reduction in income, but they have been unfortunately left out the crucial financial packages provided by state and federal governments. These exclusions from financial relief opportunities have resulted in the possibility of closures for many of the providers, which would be detrimental to the residents and staff of these communities. We encourage the Biden Administration to recognize the severity of this situation and to provide a fair and equitable allocation of the remaining PRF resources to assisted living providers.”

“Assisted living providers have been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 from day one,” said Keith Hare, President & CEO, Virginia Health Care Association & Virginia Center for Assisted Living. “Relief funding is absolute critical to ensure they can continue to protect their residents from the virus.”

In addition to Spanberger and Gonzalez, the letter is also signed by U.S. Representatives Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL-12), Dan Bishop (R-NC-09), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA-02), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-01), David N. Cicilline (D-RI-01), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO-05), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Tom Cole (R-OK-04), Charlie Crist (D-FL-13), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Bill Foster (D-IL-11), Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05), Andrew R. Garbarino (R-NY-02), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01), Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Chris Jacobs (R-NY-27), Sara Jacobs (D-CA-53), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA-04), John Katko (R-NY-24), Fred Keller (R-PA-12), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), Jake LaTurner (R-KS-02), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Billy Long (R-MO-07), Frank D. Lucas (R-OK-03), Michael T. McCaul (R-TX-10), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Peter Meijer (R-MI-03), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-07), Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Bill Posey (R-FL-08), David Rouzer (R-NC-07), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL-07), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA-10), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ-02), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), and Peter Welch (D-VT-AL).

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

Dear Secretary Becerra,

We appreciate the robust efforts taken by the Biden Administration to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Administration and your agency continue this work, we ask that you provide a fair and equitable allocation of remaining Provider Relief Fund (PRF) resources to the frontline caregivers and operators that have received comparatively little relief to date, such as assisted living providers, Alzheimer’s/memory care centers, and senior congregate care facilities. These facilities care for nearly two million vulnerable seniors and have received a more limited amount of federal aid from the PRF.

Data illustrates that seniors are the most at-risk population for death and serious illness from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80.9 percent of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in people aged 65 and older. Residents of assisted living facilities are particularly at risk, because they, on average, are aged 85, suffer from multiple chronic conditions, and require assistance with daily living activities (such as eating, bathing, dressing, and taking medications), which cannot be socially distanced. Fortunately, vaccinations are now helping to keep residents and caregivers safe and show great promise to getting back to a new normal.

However, many facilities continue to struggle with immense financial burdens. Since the beginning of the public health emergency (PHE), senior living and senior support providers have incurred billions in expenses or losses related to the acquisition of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and other infection prevention and control supplies, as well as additional support for their workforce. The financial strain they are experiencing is further exacerbated by lost revenue due to record-low occupancy rates as the move-in of new residents was slowed, and in many cases halted, due to the PHE; these losses are long-term, compounding, and unsustainable.

We continue to hear from providers in our respective states, that without additional financial relief, many will not be able to sustain operations. For the senior residents of these communities, this could mean losing their caregiver and their home. An analysis by your agency on the funds from the PRF dispersed to skilled nursing facilities versus assisted living facilities is warranted considering they serve a similar vulnerable population. It is estimated that approximately $23 billion remains in the PRF and a proportional allocation of funds to these senior care facilities would signal that this Administration remains dedicated to helping our nation’s seniors and their families.

We will work with you to ensure that these essential facilities that serve our nation’s most vulnerable population receive the resources they need to continue to protect their residents and staff. Immediate targeted financial relief that equitably provides resources to these caregivers as other comparable long-term care providers is necessary. These resources will help offset the continued expenses for PPE, staffing, infection prevention and control, vaccine administration, and testing.

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