Legislation approved providing more than half a billion dollars to aid state’s nursing homes, fire and EMS companies
HARRISBURG – The Senate approved new funding yesterday to provide critical resources for nursing homes and other front-line organizations that are struggling due to COVID-19, according to Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) who co-sponsored and voted for the legislation, Senate Bill 1122.
“82 percent of the 616 deaths in Chester and Delaware counties have been of nursing homes residents and those in other congregate care facilities,” noted Killion, citing statistics from the PA Department of Health’s COVID-19 data page. “Statewide, congregate care residents account for 69 percent of the deaths. This funding will help nursing home operators better protect those who clearly are at the greatest risk from the virus.”
The legislation would distribute $507 million in federal money to nursing homes and other organizations supporting long-term living programs to ease the considerable strain placed on these organizations by COVID-19.
Long-term living facilities have been a hotbed for COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. A Senate hearing last week detailed the financial challenges facing these facilities due to the fact that the Wolf Administration has not prioritized them for testing and Personal Protective Equipment.
A recent investigative story by SpotlightPA noted the state had an early plan that was never fully implemented to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus, and that, “in the meantime, some facilities have become death traps.”
The bill would also establish a special one-time grant program for Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies and EMS squads as they address the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program would provide a total of $31 million in grants to organizations that were approved for annual funding by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC).
Companies that did not receive a grant from PEMA and OSFC would also have a new window to apply. The new funding for long-term living programs and the first responder grants will come from federal money appropriated to Pennsylvania from the CARES Act. The legislation has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
“After more than 2,700 elderly Pennsylvanians in these facilities have died and more than 12,400 have been infected, the Department of Health finally announced a comprehensive testing plan,” said Killion. “I called for that last month. It should have been done at that time, and while I’m grateful for those it will help, it’s cold comfort to those who’ve tragically already lost a loved one.”