February 24, 2021

Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Protect Nursing Home Residents and Workers

COVID-19 has taken disproportionate toll on nursing homes across the country

Washington, DC – With the COVID-19 pandemic having claimed the lives of more than 170,000 residents and workers in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has joined Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in introducing legislation to save lives and assist with vaccinations.

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act would provide funding to ensure that nursing homes have the resources to keep residents and workers safe. Funding would go towards providing infection control assistance and organizing local health and emergency workers – known as “surge” teams – to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and care for residents. The legislation would also require demographic data collection on the virus in nursing homes. Whitehouse is advocating for the measure to be included in the pandemic relief bill currently advancing in the House of Representatives.

“Nursing home residents and staff have been through a traumatic year,” said Whitehouse. “We need to prioritize vaccinating and caring for the Americans who live and work in these settings. That means providing additional staff as needed to control outbreaks and making sure every resident and care worker who wants a vaccine can get one.”

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act would provide $750 million in funding to states to implement surge teams and $210 million for the Secretary of HHS to contract with quality improvement organizations to provide essential infection control assistance to nursing homes. The bill would also require 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 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.

“We applaud the efforts of Senator Whitehouse and his colleagues to provide funding for the protection of nursing home residents and staff,” said Scott Fraser, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association. “We are especially pleased with the creation of strike teams to address the critical issue of staffing shortages during times of crisis. This is a suggestion that RIHCA brought to Senator Whitehouse’s attention this past Spring when our homes were in critical need of additional staff due to the pandemic. We thank him for listening and taking action.”

The COVID-19 Nursing Home Protection Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

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