The Department of Health and Human Services must release unobligated money in federal Provider Relief Funds “without further delay” to prevent further financial ruin for struggling healthcare providers, a bipartisan group of Senators has said.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

“Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living providers, health clinics and other healthcare providers need these funds to help weather the financial difficulties created by the pandemic,” the 43 Senators wrote in a letter Thursday week to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The agency has distributed approximately $178 billion from the fund to providers over the course of the pandemic, with $13 billion specifically sent to nursing homes and $1 billion to assisted living communities in 2020. No distributions from the fund have been made since December 2020 from the fund, which has about $44 billion remaining, according to the American Health Care Association.

Providers have since grown impatient with HHS’ inaction on the matter.

HHS also has faced pressure from other government agencies to offer more details on its plans for the remaining funding. The Government Accountability Office in late July criticized the agency for not having a clear timely on for the leftover coronavirus relief funds and called for it to have better communication about its distribution plans.

The bipartisan group specifically called for HHS to provide an “immediate update on its plans to distribute the unobligated funds remaining in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) and other healthcare relief programs.” 

“GAO recommended that HHS communicate information about, and facilitate oversight of, the department’s use of COVID-19 relief funds by providing projected time frames for its planned distributions in the spend plans it submits to Congress,” the senators wrote. 

“We fully agree with GAO’s assessment and ask that HHS announce and implement its plans for additional disbursement of provider relief funds,” they concluded.