The federal government on Wednesday announced that it is expanding the third phase of Covid-19 relief for health care providers, including assisted living.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is boosting its Phase 3 funding total from $20 billion to $24 billion, after concluding that the initial amount did not sufficiently cover lost revenue and expense increases incurred during the pandemic during the first half of 2020.
“This funding will distribute to providers up to 88% of their reported losses,” HHS noted in its statement announcing the move. “It is worth noting that over 35,000 applicants will not receive an additional payment either because they experienced no change in revenues or net expenses attributable to COVID-19, or because they have already received funds that equal or exceed reimbursement of 88% of reported losses.”
The losses are based on information providers submitted to HHS during the initial Phase 3 provider relief rollout. An initial round of payments will be sent to providers today, and will continue through January as more providers’ applications undergo quality reviews and payment set up is completed.
“With the Provider Relief Fund, we’ve been able to support providers hardest hit by Covid-19, including safety net hospitals, rural providers, and nursing homes, helping ensure they can continue serving their communities during and beyond the pandemic,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement.
As of the time this story is published, it is unknown how much of this expansion will be allocated to private-pay senior housing. The announcement does note that nursing homes will receive an additional $1.1 billion in relief, as reported by Skilled Nursing News.
HHS received approximately 75,000 Phase 3 applicants; the percentage of those applicants that are assisted living providers is unknown, American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) President David Schless told Senior Housing News.
“We have asked on several occasions. Our understanding is that the 88% will be derived directly from each providers Phase 3 application (through the end of the second quarter 2020),” he said.
Provider relief for senior housing has lagged throughout the pandemic. HHS formally announced in September that private-pay assisted living providers could apply for funding under the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution allocation, and announced its initial Phase 3 allotment in October.
Industry association, Argentum, praised the announcement.
“The revenue lost and expenses shouldered by these communities have been significant, and this funding will assist in recouping a major portion of those losses so they can continue to care for their residents and support their dedicated workforce,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda said in a statement.
The sentiment was echoed by Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).
“Federal aid is critical during this time when providers are dealing with record cases and deaths due to high community spread, and therefore, dedicating extensive resources to fight this virus,” he said in a statement. “Since it will likely take months to vaccinate our population, these payments give our providers a fighting chance to battle this horrible virus and keep our doors open.”
Balda also noted that some providers are still awaiting Phase 2 payments needed to continue operations, and implored HHS to release those as soon as possible.
“Without these payments, we know providers across the industry will continue to suffer losses that may lead to closures,” he said in the statement.
SHN requested comment from HHS and other industry associations. We will update this story as more information becomes available.