Long-term care stakeholders are growing increasingly frustrated while waiting for the remaining billions of dollars in the Provider Relief Fund to be distributed by the federal government.
“They’re just being slow. Telling us it’s coming,” Rick Matros, president and CEO of Sabra Health Care REIT, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday.
His comments came after the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living demanded that the Department of Health and Human Services release remaining relief dollars from the fund to help struggling long-term care facilities.
There’s approximately $24 billion left in the fund, according to a spokesman for the Health Resources and Services Administration at HHS. AHCA/NCAL has led an ongoing push for the federal government to distribute the remaining dollars. The association coyly speculated in early June nursing homes and other long-term care providers would soon see “positive news” but no distributions have been made.
“HRSA is working on approaches to distribute these funds as quickly and equitably as possible while maintaining effective safeguards for taxpayer dollars. HRSA will provide further updates as soon as these resources become available,” the spokesman told McKnight’s on Tuesday.
Nursing homes and assisted living have received about $14 billion of the $178 billion fund to date, according to AHCA/NCAL. The association explained that the relief funding has helped facilities offset increased costs and stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. It added that “more is needed” as the pandemic persists and the economic recovery of the industry is slow.
“Our sluggish economic recovery puts thousands of facilities in danger of closing, threatening access to long term care for vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities,” Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL president and CEO, said in a statement. “We call on the administration to distribute the remaining aid that was intended for healthcare providers and help bring stability to our sector, so we can continue serving our residents.”
The delay on the release of the remaining funds remains a mystery, according to Amber Rogotzke, president of Health Dimensions Group.
“These funds are crucial, especially for entities that are in more rural markets that struggle to pay for increased PPE, worsening staffing challenges and the potential upcoming effects of the current and even future variants,” she told McKnight’s Tuesday. “We look forward to hearing more about how these funds may be beneficial to those in senior care and how and when they will be distributed.”
The delay from HHS could stem from conflicting information it’s getting from long-term care providers regarding more time needed to spend already allocated funding and the requests for more funds now, suggested Jennifer Leatherbarrow, manager of clinical consulting for Richter LTPAC Performance Advisors.
“Census is not recovering fast enough to make up [for] the loss in revenue and the census mix is not what it was pre-COVID. The amount we pay for nurses and aides is higher than ever, with no relief in sight,” she explained to McKnight’s Tuesday.
She added that, “HHS needs to realize that some providers may have received money from other sources as well, such as: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), state allocated CARES Act funds, or [the] Federal Emergency Management Agency. The spending of the funds can vary from facility-to-facility as well due [to] COVID outbreaks and vaccination levels.”