Aging Services Providers Warn Congress: Without a New Federal Lifeline Older Adult Deaths Will Escalate

PRESS RELEASE | September 09, 2020 | by Lisa Sanders

As Unfunded Pandemic Costs Mount, Care Providers Beginning to Close Their Doors

Contact: Lisa Sanders
lsanders@leadingage.org 202-508-9407

September 9, 2020, Washington DC — As Congress returns to Washington D.C., and the U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches 200,000, aging services leaders from across the country warned Senators from both parties that they must now provide real relief for older adults—or be responsible for preventable deaths among older Americans who have already suffered 80% of all coronavirus fatalities.

“The federal government is failing older Americans and the people who care for them,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit providers of aging services. “Older adults are living at ground zero of the worst pandemic in a century.”

Sloan shared news of three pandemic-related closures at LeadingAge members as the costs of keeping up with the pandemic escalate—and that many more don’t know how they can sustain their operations without federal assistance.

“The care that our members provide is simply unsustainable without a new federal lifeline,” she added. “No COVID-19 relief bill should pass without historic levels of support and resources specifically targeted to aging services providers caring for older Americans.”

The comments were made at a nationwide press conference today, where LeadingAge released a pandemic situation report on aging services providers’ immediate needs for access and funding for rapid-response testing, and on their mounting struggle to pay the spiraling costs of expensive testing supplies, PPE, and staffing.

Nonprofit aging services leaders from four states—Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas—today discussed the grim challenges they are facing and called on Congress to take the steps needed to protect millions of older adults from the worst pandemic in a century.

The Senate returned this week after adjourning for August without even debating any COVID-19 relief proposals, after the House of Representatives passed legislation in May. A LeadingAge analysis of an earlier Senate proposal revealed its fundamental shortcomings. The new version of a “skinny bill,” which could be voted on this week, still does not provide desperately needed resources for older adults.

Sloan also questioned why the Department of Health and Human Services is planning to spend more than $250 million in taxpayer money on a PR firm this fall when the financial situation is so dire for so many struggling care providers.

Remarks by State Aging Services Leaders

Nonprofit aging services leaders joined the press conference to discuss challenges in their states, and call on Congress to take the steps needed to protect millions of older adults from the worst pandemic in a century. Remarks were offered by:

“Our members recognize the importance of testing - staff and residents. At this time, they are paying approximately $83,000 per month on testing alone. Where are they going to find one million dollars just for testing next year? This is a national problem, not one that can be addressed on a state-by-state basis.”

“Providers’ PPE costs alone have amounted to more spent in one month than in an entire year pre-COVID-19. For a facility with 100 staff, test kits alone would be approximately $15,000 per month, not to mention the staff time to test, record, and report results. Many providers are now concerned about their financial viability. The lives of these residents will be compromised if we don’t have adequate funding.

Day after day, week after week, and now month after month, long term care providers are in the fight of their lives…fighting for the lives of their residents and staff in an environment no one ever could have imagined. Our support for long term care now will define the future of this critical profession for decades to come.”

  • Julie Thorson, President & CEO, Friendship Haven, Fort Dodge, Iowa, a life plan community offering independent and assisted living, as well as skilled nursing and memory care.

“We were in critical mode before the pandemic. Now the burden is a daily constant, and we are losing good people due to the pressure of COVID. The mental and physical fatigue of our care workers and organization will challenge our ability to effectively fight the virus and without additional significant funding for our employees, testing, and PPE. Without more federal funding it’s not sustainable. As we prepare for 2021, passing on costs to residents isn’t the answer.”

  • Patrick Crump, President and CEO, Morningside Ministries, San Antonio, Texas, senior living communities with independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care and more.

“We are trying to figure out how to continue the services we've been providing since the 1960s, but we can't do it and sustain the ministry of our organization without additional funding support. Our best case scenario is that we have about 20 weeks of funding for required testing. Our worst case scenario is 10 weeks.”

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About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: www.leadingage.org.