The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a $3 trillion package of Covid-19 relief measures, including a $200 billion fund to provide hazard pay for essential workers.
“We are pleased to see a number of our priorities included in the bill’s provisions: among them, an additional $100 billion for the PHSSEF, a Heroes Fund for essential workers, and $75 billion more for testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures,” said Argentum President and CEO James Balda.
However, the fate of this bill is far from certain; the package passed largely along partisan lines in the Democrat-controlled House and does not have widespread support among Republicans in the Senate.
The legislation has “a long way to go in the Senate,” Balda noted in his statement.
Private-pay senior living providers have not received substantial support from previous federal Covid-19 relief packages. Some smaller providers have received forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but a $100 billion health care fund has flowed mainly to hospitals and other providers with large Medicare and Medicaid patient populations. Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) are urging lawmakers to allocate $20 billion in the HEROES Act to support senior living.
Many senior living providers have already implemented hazard pay for frontline workers, which has caused labor expenses to soar at a time when revenue is down. Providers have warned that heightened expenses are not sustainable.
Under the HEROES Act, employers would be able to apply for grants to pay essential workers $13 per hour premium pay above and beyond normal wages. Essential workers would be able to receive up to $10,000 for work performed from Jan. 27 through the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency.
There are 33 areas of work that are deemed essential. The group includes people in the law enforcement, agriculture, energy and transportation industries, and a range of other workers.
Last week, Forbes contributor Terina Allen called for frontline health care workers — including those providing senior care — to be among the first to receive Heroes Fund support. But, she also noted that $200 billion is not enough money “to be meaningful” given the wide range of essential workers in the United States.
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The HEROES Act also includes provisions for testing, which has been lacking in senior living settings. Personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been in short supply, and soaring costs for PPE on the open market have added to senior living providers’ bottom-line woes.
“We think we’re the only provider caring for seniors that have Covid-19 that hasn’t received any financial support yet,” Balda said Saturday in an appearance on Fox News.