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Aging Advocates Make Coronavirus Funding Plea To Congress: 'We Have a Cat 5 Bearing Down On Us'

Three people on a Zoom call screen.
LeadingAge Zoom Call Screenshot.
Jay Solomon, top left, the CEO for Aviva, A Campus For Senior Life; Steve Bahmer, top right, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida; and Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of Leading Age, plead to Congress for funding for long-term care facilities.

Aging advocatessent a letter to Florida U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott urging Congress to pass an additional coronavirus relief package for long-term care facilities.

“We have a category five hurricane bearing down on millions of older adults in Florida and across the state. It's been six months and the pandemic is still raging. In fact, it's growing worse by the week,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO of  LeadingAge, a national association of more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers who serve older adults at every level of care including nursing homes, assisted living settings, federally assisted housing, and home health care. 

Their newestsituation reportsays that COVID-related increases are causing operating losses at facilities that range from $100,000 to $3 million a month, depending on the size.

Jay Solomon, the CEO at Aviva - A Campus for Senior Life, said the non-profit facility in Sarasota is facing some hard choices.

"Do we just continue to dip into our reserves or are we going to have to change the model in which we provide care to our most vulnerable population?” Solomon asked.

Solomon said those extra costs include things like purchasing their own personal protective equipment. He says gowns and masks provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were “substandard” and too flimsy to use.

LeadingAge members also need the government's help with costs associated with extra staffing, treating infected patients, ongoing staff testing and affordable housing.

Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, said it’s past time to start dealing with this like a hurricane.

“Floridians know how to deal with hurricanes through local, state and federal partnerships that identify and deploy the necessary resources to get communities back on their feet as quickly as possible," Bahmer said. "And a similar effort is needed now.

“Nearly 2,400 residents and staff have died as a result of the virus. We're just under 50% of all deaths in the state. Like a hurricane, this much was predictable. We've known for months that seniors in long-term care settings were at the greatest risk from the virus, not because of any failure on the part of providers. Because older adults living together in these settings tend to have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible.”

Bahmer said without additional funding, when state-funded coronavirus testing ends in September, providers will need to pay between $25,000 and $300,000 a month to keep testing employees.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.