HHS on Friday began sending nearly $5 billion in grant funds to skilled nursing facilities to help offset increased expenses and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each skilled nursing facility will receive $50,000, plus $2,500 per bed, HHS said. All certified facilities with at least six certified beds are eligible.
The funds come from the $175 billion provider relief fund that Congress created in recent pandemic relief legislation. HHS had previously distributed more than $72 billion in grants and said it intends to send money to dentists and providers that solely accept Medicaid, and reimburse providers for treatment provided to uninsured patients. Officials have not yet detailed how the department plans to send out $75 billion of the fund.
Data is inconsistently reported across the country, but skilled nursing facilities have seen significant death tolls from the virus.
Skilled nursing facilities could use the funds to scale up staffing, build testing capacity, buy PPE and cover other expenses, HHS said.
"The Trump administration is providing every resource we can, from funding and direct PPE shipments to regulatory flexibility and infection control consultations, to protect seniors in nursing homes and those who care for them," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
The administration recommends that skilled nursing facilities test all residents and employees weekly. The American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) support the recommendation, but pegged the cost of one-time testing for residents and staff across the country at $440 million and has asked for a $10 billion relief fund to support testing and staffing efforts.
AHCA/NCAL said in a statement that they appreciate the distribution, but asked for direct support for assisted living facilities as well.
"Given the gravity of the situation we are facing with this deadly virus and its impact on our vulnerable residents, long term care facilities require additional support and funding from state and federal governments to reduce its spread," AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement.