Hard-hit nursing homes will get a large infusion of cash to battle the novel coronavirus, the federal government announced Friday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that nursing homes would get $4.9 billion. The grant comes after a national advocacy organization called on President Donald Trump’s administration to provide $10 billion to help pay for expanded COVID-19 testing.
“This funding secured by President Trump will help nursing homes keep the seniors they care for safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a prepared statement. “The Trump 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.”
The administration said the money would help pay for testing, as well as more masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. It also could address labor needs.
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country, praised the grant.
“We appreciate HHS sending this much-needed funding to skilled nursing facilities,” the group’s president and CEO, Mark Parkinson, said in a statement. “Long term care providers are privileged to care for our country’s Greatest Generation. The Administration has given us the ability to care of them with the resources that they deserve.”
Each skilled nursing facility will receive $50,000, plus and additional $2,500 per bed. John Matson, a spokesman for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, said the state’s nursing homes likely will receive about $75 million.
“Certainly, it’s welcome,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s going to get us out of the woods … This is not going to fix it all.”
More than half of Alabama’s nursing homes have had COVID-19 cases, and nearly every county has been affected, according to the state Nursing Home Association.
According to state Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile), citing an update that State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris provided to a group of legislators Thursday, 250 to 260 COVID-19 deaths in Alabama have occurred at long-term care facilities. That is almost half of all confirmed fatalities.
“We need everyone around the country to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way they have around hospitals,” Parkinson stated. “We will continue to work with local, state and federal health officials to take every possible step to keep our nation’s long term care residents and staff safe.”
Nationally, skilled nursing facilities have experienced a 6 percent decline in patients since the beginning of the year, further straining budgets, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Matson said that reflected a decline in the number of people referred for rehabilitation due to the pandemic-triggered postponement of elective surgeries.
Updated at 12:30 p.m. to include a new estimate of the amount of money Alabama nursing homes will receive, based on comments by an Alabama Nursing Home Association spokesman.