TREASURE COAST ― Assisted living communities are appealing to the federal government for COVID-19-related support similar to what was given to nursing homes.

In a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living requested $5 billion in emergency funding and support for assisted living communities.

The Florida Center for Assisted Living in Tallahassee is the state affiliate of the NCAL, which advocates for the assisted living community.

According to the letter, assisted living communities have not received any direct federal funding for PPE supplies or testing even though, like nursing homes, their residents are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“While much warranted attention has been focused on nursing homes, there has been an alarming number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in assisted living communities reported,” said AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson and NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle. “Sadly, many assisted living residents have suffered the same fate as older adults in nursing homes who have contracted the virus. Like nursing homes, our residents are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19, as more than half are above the age of 85, and many are living with underlying health conditions.”

More than one million people live in about 42,000 assisted living communities in the U.S. The letter identified the employees of such communities as essential workers and, in some cases, first responders.

“Those who work in assisted living communities, like skilled nursing, hospitals and other health care and congregate settings, are on the frontlines working hard each day to prevent the virus from entering these facilities as well as containing it once a positive case has been identified.”

Communities are experiencing an increase in expenses due to hiring additional staff while existing staff are isolating; restricting communal dining and serving more meals in residents’ rooms; securing PPE supplies; testing, diagnosing, and quarantining COVID-19 cases; and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. In some cases, assisted living communities are receiving COVID-19 positive residents discharged from hospitals per state requests.

“Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable community, which cannot be overstated, long term care facilities, including assisted living communities, require essential funding and support from federal and state governments to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The groups asked that $5 billion from the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund be disbursed immediately to all assisted living communities in the country, including those with confirmed cases and those without.

FEMA was included in the letter because the groups are asking FEMA to provide PPE.

“As many states reinstitute public gatherings as well as plan guidance on opening up long term care facilities to visitation, this is a critical time period to ensure our assisted living communities are equipped to keep COVID-19 out of their buildings. Unfortunately, approximately 75 percent of assisted living providers have been unable to find sufficient PPE, like masks, gowns and face shields for caregivers. Two-thirds are using homemade or improvised PPE or are using other non-medical equipment.”

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