Schakowsky and Eshoo Urge Congressional Leadership to Help Prevent Nursing Home Deaths and Infections Through Future Coronavirus Relief Package

July 24, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair, and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman, today sent a letter urging Congressional leadership to include key policies and dedicated funding in the upcoming coronavirus relief package to protect and support Americans living and working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Nearly 60,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in nursing homes or other long-term facilities this year representing more than 40 percent of the country’s COVID-19 deaths. Six months after the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, long-term care facilities are still reporting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages, testing lags, and difficulties with infection control. Families and resident representatives are also reporting unauthorized discharges and little to no ability to communicate with residents in these facilities.  

“As leaders in health care, we’ve come together to recommend a comprehensive plan to save lives and improve conditions in long-term care facilities,” the Members of Congress wrote. “The dire situation in nursing homes deserves targeted funding and policy to improve conditions for staff and residents and demonstrates the need for greater investments in home and community-based services.” 

In the letter, the Representatives recommended six key policies to be included in the next relief package to help residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities:

1.     Targeted funding for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. H.R. 6972, the Nursing Home COVID-19 Protection and Prevention Act introduced by Reps. Eshoo, Schakowsky, Shalala, Dean, and Moulton provides $20 billion to states and Indian Tribes to support COVID-19 testing, PPE, and staffing in nursing homes, CMS-certified State Veterans Homes, psychiatric hospitals, and intermediate care facilities. 

2.     Protections for residents and workers. H.R. 6698, the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents and Workers During COVID-19 Act introduced by Rep. Schakowsky and the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families, surges funding to send strike teams to the hardest hit nursing homes; requires nursing homes to employ a full-time infection preventionist, ensures nursing homes train workers about COVID-19 infection and treatment; mandates weekly testing for residents and daily pre-shift testing for staff; provides two weeks of paid sick leave for all nursing home employees; and requires CMS to protect residents’ rights and conduct better oversight, including inspections and guidance. 

3.     Data transparency. The data collection requirements in the Heroes Act should be expanded to include intermediate care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and all other CMS-certified long-term care facilities and the facilities must report data prior to May 1, 2020. 

4.       Virtual visits to mitigate social isolation. Congress must ensure that long-term care residents can take full advantage of existing technology to “virtually visit” with and see their loved ones by including the provisions of H.R. 6487, the ACCESS Act, introduced by Rep. Schakowsky and Rep. Peter King. 

5.     Investment in Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services. H.R. 6305, the Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act introduced by Rep. Dingell and the leadership of the Task Force on Aging and Families, provides important support for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services during the COVID-19 emergency period. 

6.     Reject blanket immunity for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities related to COVID-19. Long-term care facilities must remain responsible for providing the required level of quality care during this public health emergency. 

In addition to Schakowsky and Eshoo, the letter was signed by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Donna Shalala (D-FL), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Madeleine Dean (D-PA).

The full text of the letter can be found HERE.

###