The Trump administration announced Friday it will send nearly $5 billion to help nursing homes respond to COVID-19, which has already killed thousands of individuals in those facilities throughout the U.S. since February.
The funding distributed to nursing homes by the Department of Health and Human Services can be used to increase testing capacity, purchase protective equipment for staff, hire more workers and cover other pandemic-related expenses.
The funds will also help make up for lost revenue caused by the pandemic and cover other COVID-19–related expenses.
But trade groups representing nursing homes and long-term care facilities said $5 billion isn’t enough money.
Under the administration's proposal, facilities would each receive $50,000, plus an additional $2,500 per bed.
“Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable residents, long term care facilities require additional support and funding from state and federal governments to reduce its spread,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 facilities in the U.S.
Parkinson noted that assisted living facilities won’t be eligible for the additional funding, despite also dealing with COVID-19.
Trade groups have asked for at least $10 billion to respond to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.
It’s not clear how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, because not all states have released that information and it is not yet tracked by the federal government. But at least 28,100 residents and workers have died so far, according to a New York Times tally, making up one-third of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
The elderly are particularly at risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19 because they tend to have weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions that exacerbate the disease. COVID-19 spreads quickly in nursing homes, which typically have tight quarters and communal settings.
Nursing homes are often short-staffed and experience high staff turnover, likely because of low pay and limited paid leave policies that also encourage workers to come to work sick.
A report issued this week by a nonpartisan government watchdog found that more than 80 percent of all nursing homes surveyed between 2013 and 2017 — about 13,300 facilities — were cited for at least one infection control deficiency in that time period and for failing to follow rules intended to prevent the spread of diseases, like staff hand-washing protocols.