Argentum held a meeting earlier today with Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa, who is primarily responsible for management of the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). With the support of the Argentum-led congressional sign-on letters that garnered 25 senators and 59 members of Congress, we specifically requested that HRSA make a targeted distribution for assisted living providers from the estimated $23 billion in remaining provider relief funds. We also asked that HRSA address outstanding payments from Phase II and Phase III, setup a review process for providers that were denied claims or received an underpayment, and develop a future Phase IV methodology that accounts for expenses and losses which continue to be incurred by providers as a result of COVID-19.
We greatly appreciate everyone’s continued engagement on this and for sharing details related to your PRF requests to help inform our efforts.
President Biden Promotes Plans in National Address
Our HRSA meeting followed President Biden’s joint address to Congress last night, held on his 99th day in office, where he touted the administration of more than 200 million vaccines, doubling the original goal of 100 million shots that was met on his 58th day in office. As part of the vaccination effort, the president called on all employers to encourage vaccination among their workforce, asking large employers to offer paid time for employees receiving or recovering from vaccines while announcing plans for a tax credit for small- and medium-sized businesses to provide paid leave for employees worth up to $511 per day (up to 80 hours, or 10 work days), available for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees.
The president promoted the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, released last month, which included $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities, along with $100 billion earmarked for high-speed broadband connectivity. President Biden specifically advocated for better wages and better benefits for caregivers, and noted the economic benefits of investing in elder care, claiming that many have dropped out of the workforce due to a lack of elder care or childcare, and that thousands of older Americans are waiting for homecare. We continue to educate lawmakers on the need for senior congregate care such as assisted living, independent living, memory and continuing care to be included as a critical part of the nation’s long-term care infrastructure.
The address also touted the recently-released American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion companion to the American Jobs Plan. The plan includes funding for childcare and child tax credits, a $225 billion national paid family and medical leave program, $200 billion for free universal preschool, and $109 billion for free community college. Argentum has long advocated for greater investment in workforce development in the long-term care (LTC) sector and supports tuition support/loan forgiveness for those working in health care or LTC. We are reviewing the other components of the plan, including the impact of universal paid family and medical leave.
With regard to workforce, the president strongly urged passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, currently pending consideration in the U.S. Senate. The legislation was passed on a narrowly-bipartisan basis in the House last month and has already gained the support of 47 Democratic senators (only Senators Kelly, Sinema, and Warner have not co-sponsored). Argentum opposes the legislation as it could potentially exacerbate the workforce challenges in senior living, and we are working closely with our partners in the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace to prevent its passage. At this time, it is unlikely to be passed by a simple-majority vote under reconciliation, meaning unless the rules of the Senate are changed, it would still need the support of at least 10 Republican senators to overcome a filibuster for passage.
Argentum Leads LTC Advocacy Effort with SENIOR Act
As Congress considers the president’s plans, Argentum is leading advocacy efforts to promote the SENIOR Act (Safeguarding Elderly Needs for Infrastructure and Occupational Resources Act), a proposal that calls for at least $100 billion invested over the next 10 years to establish a Senior Housing and Sustainment Relief Fund.
We anticipate that much of the LTC investments under the president’s proposals will be targeted at “aging in place” programs to help seniors remain in their primary residences. As such, we have held dozens of meetings with congressional offices in recent weeks to underscore the residential component of senior living for consideration of these funds, and are urging immediate investments in LTC to prepare not only for the exponentially-growing needs in the coming decades, but also in the next 5-10 years. We are also advocating for immediate financial relief for providers to overcome the outsized impact of COVID-19 in the industry, to build upon critical infrastructure in infection prevention and control, invest in LTC broadband and telehealth, and emphasize workforce training and development. And while we recognize the need for investments in other sectors such as childcare, we are urging specific investments in LTC specifically to address the growing demand for affordable elder care that could be met through senior living.
Argentum Advocates Member Briefing
In case you missed it, yesterday Argentum’s policy team presented a briefing on our priorities, including the infrastructure proposals, our efforts on securing allocations from the provider relief fund, and a review of the recently released CDC guidance. The session also included a guest presentation from Frances Messer, President & CEO of the North Carolina Assisted Living Association on her efforts to secure state-based relief. The slides may be downloaded here and you may view a recording of the session here. We encourage you to join the complimentary Argentum Advocates membership program if you have not already done so, and to share it with your colleagues.
We will continue to keep you updated on our advocacy efforts and our work with the administration to prioritize relief to senior living providers. Please continue to stay engaged and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
James R. Balda
President & CEO