The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living is urging Congress to prioritize America’s seniors as it continues to negotiate a bipartisan infrastructure package.

Lawmakers must allocate support for providers to make capital improvements to nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country to ensure that residents receive the highest quality of care and additional protection against infectious diseases and other emergency events, the association says.

Too many facilities remain in dire need of upgrades, the group says. Nursing homes would like to evolve and make infrastructure investments, such as improving technology, indoor air quality, and energy backups, but many cannot afford to do so.

Chronic Medicaid underfunding left the average nursing home barely able to break even—even before the pandemic. Now, the industry is grappling with an economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only one-quarter of nursing homes and assisted living communities are confident they will make it through to next year due to the financial strain caused by responding to the crisis, according to a new AHCA/NCAL survey. Facilities are struggling just to make ends meet—they cannot afford to provide much-needed infrastructure improvements without additional help from lawmakers, they report.

Significant upgrades are needed to ensure long term care residents are protected, connected, and well cared for. Specifically, AHCA/NCAL is advocating that the infrastructure package include funding for long term care to make improvements in:

• Indoor Air Quality: Upgrading heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as humidification and air pressure, helps prevent the spread of airborne infectious diseases and reduces respiratory issues, improving the health and comfort of both residents and staff.

• Technology: Expanding access to broadband would help rural long term care providers ensure residents stay connected with their loved ones as well as enhance telehealth options.

• Emergency Preparedness: In the face of escalating, unpredictable weather events and other natural disasters, long term care facilities need back-up energy solutions to maintain day-to-day operations, such as enhanced generator capacity, additional battery power sources, and solar panels.

• Enhanced Sanitization and Monitoring: Long term care facilities could implement more infection control best practices with UVC lighting and wastewater monitoring to catch and address potential risks more efficiently.

With the proper government support, nursing homes can invest in their workforce, clinical services, and infrastructure to continue to improve residents’ quality of life. AHCA and LeadingAge’s Care For Our Seniors Act includes immediate and long-term strategies to address Medicaid underfunding for nursing homes, as well as other reforms that will help boost the workforce, modernize physical structures, and enhance infection control procedures.

The country must learn from this pandemic and other national emergencies, AHCA/NCAL says. Congress must prioritize seniors in the infrastructure package and help provide critical funding so long term care facilities can provide better care and be better prepared.