The federal government is now distributing the first $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to nursing homes with increased testing, staffing and personal protective equipment needs. 

Officials formally announced the move Thursday after confirming the funding distribution earlier this week. The money is part of a planned $5 billion in aid for providers announced by the Trump administration in late July.

Alex Azar
Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary

“By distributing these funds and providing training resources, we are improving the quality of care in nursing homes and helping them save lives,” Alex Azar, secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a prepared statement.

The rest of the funding will be distributed later this fall. However, that allocation will be based on certain nursing home performance indicators, like the prevalence of the virus in the surrounding community, the facility’s ability to minimize the spread of the disease and COVID-related deaths among residents. 

The agency also announced that its Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will partner with providers to create the National Nursing Home COVID Action Network, which will offer training and mentorship to nursing homes. It’s designed to help nursing home professions prevent COVID-19 from entering facilities or spreading if already present. 

It will feature interactive small-group, problem-based training and customized mentorship through an existing network of academic medical and health centers, and community organizations. A pilot test of the program has already been established through a partnership with the University of New Mexico’s Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Institute. 

“This program will also guide nursing homes through best-practice care and treatment for patients who test positive for COVID-19; and protect staff from infection through evidence-based safety measures that will build their confidence in their ability to work and feel safe in the nursing homes,” the agency explained. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week also announced an “unprecedented” infection control training program for facility workers and managers aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.