SENIOR Act Marks First Congressional Legislation Targeted at Senior Living
Argentum applauds the introduction of a bipartisan proposal that offers both direct financial support for the COVID-ravaged senior living profession and expands the caregiving workforce.
Bold bipartisan legislation made necessary by the COVID pandemic would save America’s assisted living and senior living communities from financial ruin and stem a workforce shortage crisis. Introduced by Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the SENIOR (Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources) Act is the first bill targeting senior living for assistance related to the pandemic.
Argentum, the leading advocacy group for professionally managed senior living communities, said the SENIOR Act would address two issues through new federal appropriations by creating a caregiver sustainability fund and expanding the senior caregiving workforce. The sustainability fund appropriates $10 billion in new federal funding to assisted living caregivers that demonstrate significant and uncompensated COVID-19 related losses due to direct senior care, similar to the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).
With media reports out this week reporting that the PRF has no remaining balance due to the Biden Administration tapping the funds for pharmaceutical expenditures, this new legislation is made even more relevant to protecting the nation’s senior living communities.
The bill would also increase the investment in existing workforce development programs under the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) through four-year grants totaling $1 million per entity to help develop a geriatric care workforce.
In a statement unveiling the legislation, Rep. Trahan said: “Millions of seniors across America rely on the critical, affordable care offered by assisted living facilities. Losing access to these facilities will drive up costs and place an even greater burden on older adults and their loved ones, many of whom are unable to afford more expensive options like nursing homes or in-home care.”
“I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan SENIOR Act, which will ensure that assisted living facilities are able to keep their doors open with specialized caregivers on staff so they can continue caring for our nation’s seniors for years to come.”
Sharing in support of the SENIOR Act, Rep. Fitzpatrick said: “Since the onset of the pandemic, hard-hit senior-living facilities across the nation have incurred major financial losses and have been met with an unprecedented workload.
“Seniors are among the most vulnerable populations, and it is our duty to ensure that assisted living communities are provided with the funding and support they need to keep their doors open and care for our elderly.”
The SENIOR Act specifically would:
1) Create a Caregiver Sustainability Fund for struggling caregivers. The SENIOR
Act establishes a Caregiver Sustainability Fund (CSF) to ensure that critical caregivers
who are still struggling financially due to extreme COVID-related losses and insufficient
federal relief—such as assisted living communities—can keep their doors open. Assisted
living caregivers incurred over $30 billion in losses while keeping seniors safe during the
pandemic yet received less than 1% of the Provider Relief Fund. The majority now
operates at a financial loss. The CSF would stabilize assisted living caregivers and other
senior congregate caregivers who can demonstrate significant and uncompensated
COVID-related losses due to direct senior care.
2) Grow the senior caregiver workforce. The SENIOR Act builds upon existing
workforce programs that have proven successful in meeting our nation’s varying
healthcare requirements. Specifically, it bolsters workforce development programs within
the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) by emphasizing geriatric care
and the needs of this vulnerable population. Expanding the caregiving workforce and
increasing the number of individuals eager to serve our nation’s seniors will address the
systemic workforce shortages that have been exacerbated by COVID.
James Balda, Argentum president and chief executive officer (CEO), said the SENIOR Act was born out of the lack of a direct federal response for senior living communities that have worked around the clock to protect residents from the COVID pandemic.
“This is not a problem that will go away on its own, even when the pandemic is over. We have to address the sustainability of the long-term care sector, specifically in senior living where some 2 million Americans live. These are people’s homes and this legislation, if approved, will make it easier for seniors to remain where they want to be: home,” he said.
Senior living providers also expressed support for the legislative effort to prioritize their communities, residents, and staff for COVID relief and support.
“Congresswoman Trahan has been a stalwart supporter of initiatives to support health care workers, including those serving the elderly in assisted living residences. We applaud her initiative to expand training programs and increase the number of workers available to provide quality care to seniors. On behalf of the residents and associates at the four senior living communities in Congresswoman Trahan’s district, as well as across New England, Benchmark Senior Living thanks her,” said Tom Grape, chairman and CEO, Benchmark Senior Living.
Pennsylvania leaders in the senior living profession also offered their backing of the legislative effort. “Congressman Fitzpatrick understands the strain the COVID pandemic has on the personal care homes and assisted living residences and the seniors of the Commonwealth. The Argentum SENIOR Act will support these communities as they struggle with competing health care systems and nursing homes for a workforce to provide the care for seniors,” said Margie Zelenak, executive director, Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association. “Homes continue to close, and the sustainability fund is needed to keep the doors open for the aging population in Pennsylvania. Thank you, congressman, for your support.”
Introduction of the SENIOR Act comes at a time senior living sees great public support for the industry’s call for targeted relief. The findings of a new national survey released by Argentum and conducted by ReconMR (Reconnaissance Market Research) show 86% of those asked said the Biden Administration should target COVID-19 relief funding for senior living communities.
When asked, 89% of respondents say they are concerned about worker shortages at senior living communities caused by the pandemic. Moreover, 50% say they are VERY concerned. Read the executive summary of the poll results at tinyurl.com/yckjs92d. Raw data and charts from the poll are at tinyurl.com/2p8vd7ru.