The funding nursing homes and assisted living communities have received through the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) has been instrumental in helping them survive during the pandemic, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

Long term care facilities have received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion that Congress allocated to the PRF, but there are still funds in the PRF that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not distributed to health care providers. 

In a statement, AHCA/NCAL President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson called for remaining funds to be distributed  to long term care providers.

“Long term care providers are still facing a historic clinical and financial crisis, and they desperately need assistance to address the impact of the pandemic," Parkinson said in the statement. “We greatly appreciate the Provider Relief Funds that have been distributed thus far, but more is needed as we continue to battle COVID-19."

The Provider Relief Fund is meant to be used to support health care providers through the pandemic, Parkinson said, and urged policymakers to distribute the remaining funds to help the residents and staff in long term/post-acute care communities. “Repurposing unused funds is responsible," he said, “but the remaining Provider Relief Funds should not be considered unused, as they have not been made available in 2021 and are desperately needed.

“With the Delta variant spreading rampantly throughout the U.S., now is not the time to divert resources away from health care providers in order to pay for other legislative packages," Parkinson said. “We strongly encourage Congress to look for alternative ways to pay for the infrastructure package and for the administration to swiftly deliver the aid to providers as it was intended."

The costs to fight the pandemic have left many nursing homes and assisted living communities struggling to stay afloat. Personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, additional staffing, and other necessities—coupled with chronic Medicaid underfunding and fewer resident admissions—have put long term care providers in a severe financial crisis.

Only one-quarter of long term care providers are confident that they will make it through to next year, according to an AHCA/NCAL survey. In fact, nearly 2,000 nursing homes could close permanently over the course of the pandemic without the help of federal assistance, putting thousands of seniors in jeopardy of losing the care they rely on.

That's why the PRF has been so important, according to providers. The AHCA/NCAL survey found that 92 percent of nursing homes and 62 percent of assisted living communities said the PRF has been helpful during the pandemic. The initial funding in 2020 has helped to offset pandemic-related costs and has been the difference between many facilities closing or staying open. But as the pandemic persists and economic recovery within the industry remains slow, more help is needed. 

The fight is not over, AHCA/NCAL says. Vulnerable seniors are still at risk, and long term care providers need sustained support to keep residents and staff safe. HHS must release the remainder of the PRF to long term care providers so the nation's health care heroes can protect themselves and their residents.​​