The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) continues to seek an extension to the June 30 deadline for providers to report on how COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (PRF) monies were spent and/or return unused funds.

The PRF, established by the CARES Act, has been an instrumental resource for health care providers amid the pandemic, the association said. Long term care facilities have received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion in the PRF since the pandemic began, which has helped providers with the costs associated with combating the virus.

Personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, hiring additional workers, and providing hero pay are just a few things the aid has helped pay for, AHCA/NCAL said. For many providers, the funding was the difference between keeping their doors open or closing them for good, the association added.

In April, the organization sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, requesting that the reporting deadline be extended to Dec. 30, 2022. In the letter, AHCA/NCAL said the extension is needed because:

• Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and assisted living communities (ALCs) will experience ongoing higher operating costs while occupancy remains at record lows. The industry is expected to lose $94 billion over a two-year period (2020-2021) due to the skyrocketing costs to fight the pandemic. In 2020, nursing homes spent roughly $30 billion on PPE and additional staffing alone. Many SNF and ALC providers faced financial struggles even before the pandemic, but the situation is becoming more dire, with the industry anticipating record closures.

• Declining occupancy has compounded financial challenges. SNF occupancy declined by 16.5 percent between January 2020 and January 2021. Occupancy rates for ALCs dropped to a record-low 77.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. AHCA/NCAL said its research estimates that more than 1,600 SNFs could close in 2021. A recent AHCA/NCAL member survey said 56 percent of ALCs would not be able to maintain operations at current levels an additional 12 months without additional revenue or financial relief.

And, the group said it is not alone in requesting an extension. Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) also sent a letter to Becerra—co-signed by nearly 80 Republican and Democrat members—asking that the June 30 deadline be extended, and that remaining PRF funding be distributed as soon as possible. The American Hospital Association requested that the deadline be extended until the end of the public health emergency as well.

Restaurants, which also experienced significant hardships over the course of the pandemic, have until 2023 to use COVID-relief funding. AHCA/NCAL said it hopes that HHS takes the same approach with the PRF for health care providers.  

“Federal lawmakers rallied around long term care facilities and gave them some of the critical assistance they needed, but they still need support,” AHCA/NCAL said. “COVID-related expenditures will remain constant for the foreseeable future. Extending the reporting deadline will help long term care providers maintain operations and continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens and frontline health care heroes.”