Whitehouse Highlights American Rescue Plan Provisions to Protect Nursing Home Residents and Workers
Section of ARP based on Whitehouse bill provides $200 million for infection control in nursing homes and $250 million to states for surge staffing; Rhode Island CNA testifies before Senate Finance Committee about harrowing experience as COVID-19 swept through nursing facility where she works
Washington, DC – In a Senate Finance Committee hearing covering the devastating toll COVID-19 has taken on nursing homes across the country, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today highlighted a section of the American Rescue Plan based on his proposal to protect long-term care facility residents and staff from the virus. In the hearing, Adelina Ramos, a certified nursing assistant at the Greenville Nursing Center in Greenville, Rhode Island and member of SEIU District 1199 New England, testified about the pandemic’s toll on the facility where she works.
“I’m grateful to have Adelina Ramos, a certified nursing assistant from Rhode Island, with us to share her story of caring for residents during harrowing weeks and months as COVID-19 swept through the nursing home where she works. Adelina’s is one of many stories of the extraordinary sacrifices health care workers across Rhode Island have made over the past year,” said Whitehouse. “We need to protect vulnerable seniors and do everything in our power to make sure nothing like what occurred in nursing homes across the country ever happens again. That means providing additional staff and infection control as needed in the event there’s another wave of infection, and making sure every resident and staffer who wants a vaccine has one.”
The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 170,000 residents and workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The effects of the pandemic have been most devastating in communities of color, where research has found that facilities serving significant numbers of Black and Hispanic residents had case and death counts three times higher than in facilities serving a higher proportion of white residents.
“To be trusted by families to care for their loved ones is a great honor. But over the past year, my days have been filled with fear and sadness,” Ramos told the Committee. “I never thought in my small community that COVID-19 would arrive at our doorstep, but it did and nursing homes were not prepared.”
Last month, Whitehouse joined Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act, which provides funding for infection control assistance and organizing local health and emergency workers – known as “surge” teams – to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and care for residents. A version of Whitehouse’s bill was included in the American Rescue Plan, which was passed by Democrats in Congress and signed into law by President Biden last week.
The version included in the American Rescue Plan provides $250 million in funding to states to implement surge teams and $200 million for the Secretary of HHS to contract with quality improvement organizations to provide essential infection control assistance to nursing homes. The legislation also requires the HHS Secretary to collect and make public demographic data on COVID-19 cases and deaths, including information on age, race, ethnicity, and preferred language.
The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act introduced in February was based on previous bill Whitehouse introduced in May 2020. That legislation was passed by the House of Representatives but was never brought up for a vote in the Senate by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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