About a quarter of all coronavirus-related deaths in the country are linked to nursing homes and senior living facilities. And staff inside say they’re still at risk.
Congress allocated $100 billion for health care in the CARES Act signed into law last month. Only $30 billion has been handed out, and none of it has gone to nursing homes or senior living communities.
Sen. Chuck Grassley is one of 27 senators, nearly all Republicans, who sent a letter to the secretary of Health and Human Services asking for nursing homes and senior living communities to be considered for relief funding. Specifically, they say these facilities need money to increase staffing and personal protective equipment.
"I think there may be a misunderstanding in terms of where we fall in the health care continuum. People certainly are cognizant of the need for PPE at hospitals. I think people are certainly cognizant of the need for the PPE at nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities," said CEO of Eclipse Senior Living Kai Hsaio, who oversees more than 100 communities in 28 states.
His staff is caring for residents within their individual units, including providing meals. Keeping residents safe, he says, depends on keeping a full stock of PPE.
Though most facilities have closed their doors to the public, Dr. Edward Schneider says employees could be bringing in COVID-19 and need hospital-level protection.
"They may work somewhere else as well. They don't get paid a lot. So to make ends meet, they have two jobs," Schneider explained.
Hsaio says his people are front-line workers, too, and that some of those federal dollars need to go to senior living communities.
"I hope they understand that we are an extension of the health care system, like doctors and nurses, and provide us the same type of assurances, appreciation and tools to do our job," he said.