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Nursing Homes to Get $4.9 Billion From HHS to Combat Virus (1)

May 22, 2020, 12:56 PMUpdated: May 22, 2020, 2:38 PM

Skilled nursing facilities will receive $4.9 billion in aid address critical needs such as labor, scaling up their testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment, and a range of other expenses directly linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that it will make relief fund distributions to the nursing homes based on both fixed and variable bases. Each facility will receive a fixed distribution of $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed. All certified homes with six or more certified beds are eligible for the distribution.

Nursing homes face unique challenges in battling the new coronavirus. Their residents are more likely to die from Covid-19, and the facilities are stretched in staffing and resources to enforce strict lockdowns and quarantines of infected patients. The HHS has also recommended that the homes regularly conduct tests of staff and residents, but widespread testing is costly, and many facilities are struggling to get supplies or access to laboratories that have them.

Nursing homes account for at least one-third of U.S. Covid-19 deaths and more than half the total in 14 states, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The industry says it needs more staffing, protective gear, and testing to combat the infection caused by the coronavirus. It has asked the government to establish a $10 billion fund to help pay for the needed services.

The money on offer now is a huge help, but it’s only a start. Assisted living facilities, which primarily provide personal care in a home-like social setting, have yet to receive any direct aid to battle Covid-19, even though they also serve vulnerable seniors. Skilled nursing facilities are distinct in that they provide medical and personal care in a clinical setting.

“We appreciate HHS sending this much-needed funding to skilled nursing facilities,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“We are asking for additional consideration for all long term care facilities, whether it be in regard to additional testing, personal protective equipment, or funding,” Parkinson said. “We need everyone around the country to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way they have around hospitals.”

(Updates with reaction from the industry, starting in the sixth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Fawn Johnson in Washington at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karen Ertel at kertel@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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