Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress’ number one priority has been, and continues to be, the safety and protection of the American people from this virus. That’s why on March 4, 2020, an initial $7.8 billion emergency funding bill was passed to aid the U.S.’ response to the pandemic.
Soon after that, Congress acted again passing the CARES Act, providing $2 trillion in aid to hospitals, businesses, and individuals.
This virus has shown us that among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older Americans at higher risk, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Sadly, almost 40% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths are nursing-home related.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), 49% of COVID-19 related deaths in the state have been associated with long-term care facilities or nursing homes. As the state entered the final phases of reopening, COVID-19 infections and deaths in these facilities has plateaued and remains less than 10% of new cases.
I believe it’s imperative that Congress and the Trump Administration protect our communities’ most vulnerable individuals, including our elders, and those in nursing homes and facilities.
I was proud to support the CARES Act in March, which created the Provider Relief Fund (PRF). The PRF provides support for American families, workers, and healthcare providers in this battle against COVID-19.
Through the PRF, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is distributing $175 billion to the frontlines of the COVID-19 response- including sending more than $949 million to Oklahoma’s own hospitals, rural health clinics, and nursing homes.
In addition to funds sent to rural and urban hospitals, HHS has distributed millions of dollars’ worth of funds to nursing homes and facilities and skilled nursing homes across the nation. The first distribution included $4.9 billion to skilled nursing facilities. HHS’ second distribution included nearly $2.5 billion to both skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes to help combat the effects of COVID-19. The funding has been used to support testing, staffing, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs in these facilities that care for our most vulnerable.
In Oklahoma, nearly 300 nursing homes and facilities have received funding, totaling more than $85 million to improve safety for these individuals and to help save lives.
HHS has also launched additional steps to support our nursing homes, including, sending rapid tests to nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspots; supplying 1.5 million masks to nursing homes across the country; and creating a national nursing home training program for frontline nursing home staff.
Moving forward, it is important that both Congress and the Administration continue to support these facilities, and their employees, by encouraging safe practices and providing resources to protect the vulnerable that reside in them.
As the situation around COVID-19 is changing every day, be sure to stay up to date for all the best ways to stay healthy by visiting CDC’s website: www.cdc.gov.