This week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee, reached out U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar calling on him to send more federal relief funds to senior centers and nursing homes.
“As coronavirus cases continue to spike in nursing homes across the country, I am writing to urge you to consider dedicating a significant amount of the remaining money in the Provider Relief Fund to help nursing homes and other senior care facilities combat this deadly disease. With now more than 100,000 Americans deaths from the coronavirus linked to long-term care facilities, it’s clear that protecting our seniors must be one of the highest priorities,” Buchanan wrote Azar on Tuesday.
Buchanan pointed out that the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that the White House and Congress agreed to at the end of March included $175 million for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and $32 billion from that amount has not been touched yet.
“This fund allows HHS to provide assistance to a broad array of health care providers, such as hospitals, medical centers and assisted living facilities, to cope with the pandemic. According to HHS, approximately $143 billion has been allocated from the fund to date, of which the largest share has gone to rural and urban hospitals. Thus far, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have received roughly $10 billion in assistance from the fund,” Buchanan’s office noted.
“From the middle of September through late October, nursing homes saw confirmed COVID-19 cases increase by more than 40 percent. These alarming trends are a particularly serious concern for my home state of Florida. Florida has the largest population of senior citizens in the United States, with more than 20 percent of our residents being 65 years and older,” Buchanan wrote Azar. “Health experts and organizations including the AARP have sounded the alarm that more resources are needed to support nursing homes. These are significant areas of concern with regards to PPE, testing and staffing at nursing homes with 10 percent of facilities lacking even a week’s supply of masks, 20 percent seeing a shortage of aides and nearly a third having to wait three to seven days for test results.
“It is clear that long-term care facilities, desperately need and deserve additional support right now. Money from the Provider Relief Fund could be used to purchase additional Personal Protective Equipment, including gloves and masks, ramp up coronavirus testing and screening procedures and hire additional staff,” Buchanan added. “Again, I strongly urge you to provide much-needed funding to help these facilities fight the coronavirus and keep our senior citizens and front-line health care workers safe. Protecting our most vulnerable population must be a top priority.”
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