AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin distributing nearly $4.9 billion in relief funds to skilled nursing facilities to help them combat the “devastating effects of this pandemic.”
According to an announcement sent out on Friday, the funding will supplement previously announced provider relief funds and will be used to support nursing homes suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19.
Each facility will receive a fixed amount of $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed.
All certified skilled nursing facilities with six or more certified beds are eligible for the “targeted distribution” of funds.
“This funding secured by President Trump will help nursing homes keep the seniors they care for safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The Trump Administration is providing every resource we can, from funding and direct PPE shipments to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them.”
But U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett told KXAN he’s concerned the funds won’t be used to directly help residents or staff.
“I want to be sure those federal dollars are flowing to improve the situation, and not just into the pocket of some private equity company that has a chain of nursing homes across the country,” he said.
According to the Terms and Conditions of the Skilled Nursing Facility Relief Fund, the funds must only be used to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” or reimburse the facilities for “health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.”
The HHS announcement reads, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the viability of SNFs in a variety of ways. Since the beginning of 2020, SNFs have experienced up to a 6 percent decline in their patient population as current and potential residents choose other care settings, or as current residents pass away. In addition to nursing home residents, many SNF employees have also been diagnosed with COVID-19. These additional funds may help nursing homes address critical needs such as labor, scaling up their testing capacity, acquiring personal protective equipment and a range of other expenses directly linked to this pandemic.“
Rep. Doggett said he thinks the funds should be required go towards labor, testing, and PPE.
He’s also frustrated with delay in getting these funds to the homes.
“Two months ago, in March, we approved funding,” he explained. “They are not even in the hands of the nursing homes yet. I think that assistance needed to get out sooner.”