Rep. Wexton Leads Bipartisan Call For Urgently Needed Funding to Protect Nursing Home Residents and Staff
Wexton outlines the need for funding at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities that are severely underresourced
Washington, April 9, 2020
Washington, D.C. -- Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) led a bipartisan letter urging House and Senate Leadership to include the necessary funding for long-term care facilities in the next iteration of COVID-19 legislation. In her letter to Congressional leadership, Wexton outlines the desperate need for personal protective equipment as well as funding to attract and retain the necessary staff at long-term facilities that are under extreme duress. The letter was co-led by Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).
“I’ve heard firsthand from nursing homes in my district about the impossible situation they’re in and we’ve seen the deadly consequences of this virus making its way into our senior communities -- to save lives we need to take urgent action,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “Without adequate resources, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities can't protect their residents and staff. The need for funding is dire. These communities are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect our seniors and the dedicated staff caring for them.”
Wexton goes on to note that of the nearly 4 million residents and patients served at more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities around the country, the average age is 79 years old and many suffer from underlying health conditions that place them at even greater risk.
Yesterday, Congresswoman Wexton urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to swiftly distribute billions of dollars in federal funding signed into law as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Virginia and across the country. Wexton’s letter comes as the death toll at a Virginia nursing home has risen to 39 and a nursing home in California was forced to evacuate after a majority of its staff failed to report for work after two consecutive days.
Three residents at the Falcons Landing retirement community in Wexton’s district have passed away as a result of COVID-19, with more than a dozen other cases among staff and residents. Wexton has been in regular contact with nursing homes and assisted living facilities in her district to better understand the situation on the ground for both residents and staff.
Wexton’s letter, co-led by Spanberger, is signed by Representatives Colin Allred (TX), Cindy Axne (IA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA), Anthony G. Brown (MD), André Carson (IN), David N. Cicilline (RI), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO), Gerald E. Connolly (VA), Danny K. Davis (IL), Eliot Engel (NY), Anna G. Eshoo (CA), Abby Finkenauer (IA), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Ruben Gallego (AZ), Jahana Hayes (CT), Brian Higgins (NY), Marcy Kaptur (OH) William R. Keating (MA), Derek Kilmer (WA), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), John B. Larson (CT), Tom Malinowski (NJ), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Michael T. McCaul (TX), Gregory Meeks (NY), Grace Meng (NY), Gwen Moore (WI), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jamie Raskin (MD), Kathleen M. Rice (NY), John Sarbanes (MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA), David Scott (GA), Mikie Sherrill (VA), Haley M. Stevens (MI), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Paul D Tonko (NY), Peter Welch (VT), Frederica S. Wilson (FL).
The letter can be found here and below.
April 9, 2020
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Leader Schumer:
Thank you for your leadership with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We appreciate the inclusion of the $100 billion in funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the CARES Act allocated for health care providers to help them fight this virus. COVID-19 is most common among the elderly population, especially those residing in long-term care facilities. These providers face many challenges as they work diligently to address the serious public health risk posed by COVID-19. They are in urgent need of staff, essential supplies, and resources to retain health care workers. Therefore, we write to request that you provide additional funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund with the needs of long-term care facilities in mind in the next funding package.
The elderly population is at high risk from severe illness as a result of COVID-19, and long-term care facilities that care for these older adults are particularly vulnerable to the virus. In the United States, there are 15,583 skilled nursing facilities. Nursing facilities take care of approximately 3,994,972 residents and patients each year through the hard work of 904,982 devoted staff. The average age of a long-stay nursing facility resident is 79 years old and many residents have multiple comorbidities that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19 as well as subsequent, potentially fatal complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 of the more than 15,000 nursing facilities in the U.S. have experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 as of March 30th. It is estimated that there could be as many as 87,000 potential deaths in these communities if action to help these providers is not taken right away.
As COVID-19 is impacting long-term care facilities throughout the country, these providers have made it a top priority to protect their residents and staff and have already made critical investments to respond to this crisis. Most of these expenditures have been used for staffing and supplies to prevent exposure to COVID-19 among employees and residents.
Despite their investments, long-term care facilities still face a shortage of health care workers to care for residents and essential personal protective equipment to keep their workers and residents safe. This includes gowns, gloves, surgical masks, N-95 masks, face shields, thermometer covers, and hand sanitizer. Additionally, providers have expressed the need for additional funding to provide pay increases to health care staff as well as to pay for child care stipends for employees while their children are out of school, additional dietary staff to feed residents, and to provide meals for employees working long shifts. These are just a few examples of the challenges that long-term care facilities are enduring, all of which are greatly increasing their expenses. Additional funding in the next package would help skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers across the country experiencing these urgent situations. It would specifically benefit facilities that have confirmed COVID-19 cases to help contain the outbreak and facilities that do not have confirmed COVID-19 cases to ensure the virus stays out of their communities.
The staff and residents in long-term care facilities require immediate support to get them through this crisis. Providing additional funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the next package with the needs of these providers in mind is critical to protecting the elderly and the most vulnerable throughout the country from COVID-19. We look forward to continuing to work with you to keep residents and staff safe as this public health crisis continues in our country.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.