HHS Opens More Relief Funding for Assisted Living Providers

Assisted living providers will have an opportunity to receive additional federal funds to help offset the financial impacts of Covid-19.

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on Thursday announced the next phase of funding from the Provider Relief Fund. The funding includes $20 billion in aid for providers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments can apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to HHS. Previously ineligible providers — including companies that began practicing in 2020 — can also apply. Also eligible for payments under this phase of funding are behavioral health providers dealing with increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

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Providers can receive 2% of annual revenue from patient care, plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable the pandemic. HHS will take into account the three factors to determine the amount of funding allocated to a provider:

  • Its change in operating revenues from patient care
  • Its change in operating expenses from patient care, including expenses incurred related to the coronavirus
  • Payments already received through prior Provider Relief Fund distributions

“We are extremely pleased to see this additional funding made available to the provider communities on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Argentum President and CEO James Balda in a press release about the new phase of funding. “While this added funding won’t make these communities ‘whole,’ it will offer essential relief the industry needs to continue prioritizing the health and safety of residents and staff.”

The start date for applications is Monday, Oct. 5, and the application deadline is Friday, Nov. 6. HHS is urging eligible providers to apply early.

“Do not wait until the last day or week of the application period,” the HHS release said. “Applying early will help to expedite HHS’s review process and payment calculations, and ultimately accelerate the distribution of all payments.”

The federal government formally announced that private-pay assisted living providers were eligible for funding under the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution allocation in September. HHS says it has so far issued about $100 billion in aid to health care operators from the Provider Relief Fund.

The American Senior Housing Association (ASHA) noted in a message to its members that the Phase 3 distribution appears to favor companies and organizations that have not received as much federal aid, potentially favoring assisted living providers over skilled nursing facilities or hospitals.

LeadingAge, which represents non-profit senior care providers, said the announcement is welcome news for aging services providers, many of which are struggling with their finances as a result of the pandemic.

“The additional costs borne by our members as a result of the pandemic is significant, and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” Nicole Fallon, vice president of health policy and integrated services at LeadingAge, said in a statement. “Help such as this is welcome and necessary to ensure the care of and well-being of older adults and staff, and we appreciate HHS’s efforts to get these relief funds to those who have the greatest needs.”

The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which has lobbied for more federal funding for senior housing and care providers, noted it was glad to see the latest round of HHS funding.

“As the virus shows no signs of letting up, nursing homes and assisted living communities require a constant flow of resources to acquire the testing, personal protective equipment and staff support needed to protect residents and staff,” ACHA said in a statement. “We also appreciate HHS acknowledging that lost revenue due to Covid puts our long-term care facilities at further financial risk, threatening access to seniors and individuals with disabilities who require round-the-clock care.”

The latest round of funding comes amid a time of financial distress for many providers in the senior living industry. An August survey from the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) showed that 26% of providers said they could sustain operations at their current levels for just another six months without assistance. More recently, an analysis from HealthTrust estimated a $17 billion impact on providers this year due to Covid-19.

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