BREAKING: HHS announces $4.9 billion fund for skilled nursing pandemic efforts

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By James M. Berklan, McKnight’s, May 22 2020

HHS Secretary Alex Azar (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)

Skilled nursing operators will receive nearly $5 billion in funding from the federal government to fight effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services announced this morning. 

HHS said the funding is meant to support nursing homes “suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.”

The CARES Act stimulus funds began flowing today, according to providers. Each will receive $50,000 initially, as well as another $2,500 per bed. All facilities with six or more certified beds will be eligible.

The administration “is providing every resource we can, from funding and direct PPE shipments to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.

The amount is less than half of the $10 billion that the American Health Care Association had been lobbying for, but AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson expressed gratitude for the dedicated funds in a statement released early Friday morning.

“We appreciate HHS sending this much-needed funding to skilled nursing facilities. Long-term care providers are privileged to care for our country’s Greatest Generation. The administration has given us the ability to care for them with the resources that they deserve,” Parkinson said.

One of the administration’s fiercest critics, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan, also issued a statement praising the flow of funding.

“After months of pleas for funding support for badly needed COVID-19 costs, LeadingAge is pleased to see that HHS announced distribution of nearly $4.9 billion of Provider Relief Funds to nursing homes this morning,” she said.

“These funds are a start in covering nursing homes’ extraordinary expenses related to this public health crisis, but will only go so far in addressing providers’ growing financial needs as this pandemic continues,” Sloan added.

Parkinson also indicated that a push for more funding will continue, since other providers in the post-acute care continuum need consideration, a position that Sloan also has firmly pushed.

“Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable residents, long-term care facilities require additional support and funding from state and federal governments to reduce its spread. Notably, assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct aid, despite also serving vulnerable seniors,” Parkinson said.

He said that his group is “asking for additional consideration for all long-term care facilities, whether it be in regard to additional testing, personal protective equipment, or funding.”

Providers have mounted a fierce lobbying campaign in recent weeks to receive funding to pay for personal protective equipment, testing and staff. Some have complained, for example, about statements from the administration saying that nursing homes should be testing all residents and staff in what they see as unfunded mandates.

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