Shaheen & Colleagues Call for Greater Federal Resources to Support Nursing Homes during COVID-19 Crisis

June 05, 2020

**Lawmakers: current “piecemeal policies do not amount to the coordinated, national action plan that is necessary to save lives”**

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in pushing the Trump administration for greater federal resources and guidance to support nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities throughout the country as they combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Over 9,600 nursing homes and LTC facilities across the U.S. have reported COVID-19 cases and more than 40,000 residents and workers in LTC settings have died from the virus. In New Hampshire, about 80% of the state's total COVID-19 deaths have occurred at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“While the persistent shortage of testing kits and delayed reporting and disclosure of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes continue to obscure the full magnitude of this crisis, recent tragedies have made it painfully clear that our nursing homes are in dire need of additional federal support and guidance. Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable during this public health emergency, but they cannot be protected when their facilities lack testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), and sufficient staff,” the federal lawmakers wrote in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma. “Additionally, many nursing homes do not have the resources to implement federal guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19. To avert further tragedies, we strongly urge you to address the dire needs of nursing home residents and staff as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The lawmakers called on the administration to provide:

  • A comprehensive national testing plan that includes providing testing kits for our nation’s nursing homes;
  • A strategy to ensure all nursing homes and LTC facilities have adequate personal protective equipment for their residents and staff;
  • A plan to address staff shortages and guidance on how nursing homes can use separate staff and facilities for residents with COVID-19; and
  • Greater resources for nursing homes so they can complete accurate and timely federal reports and provide updates to families of nursing home residents.

“We remain gravely concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in our nation’s nursing homes. Today no one is safe, from the residents trapped alone in their rooms to the underpaid staff members working without PPE. While many American communities are in dire need, our nation’s most vulnerable individuals cannot be overlooked in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” the lawmakers concluded.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Senator Shaheen has worked to prioritize measures that would protect and support seniors and the most at-risk populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, Shaheen announced the award of $19.78 million in federal assistance through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for nursing facilities in the State. Shaheen recently introduced new legislation with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to protect residents and contain the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and has called for on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue specific guidance for when long-term care facilities can safely reopen their doors to visitors. In a letter to Senate leadership, Shaheen highlighted greater resources and support for long-term care facilities are one of her top health care priorities for future COVID-19 response legislation, In early March, Shaheen and a group of Senators pressed Vice President Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force for answers on their preparedness and response plans to protect nursing home residents, workers and their families. Shaheen has also pushed the administration for information on the distribution of critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment to those on the frontlines, including nursing homes, amid the pandemic.