WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the COVID-19 pandemic puts a strain on seniors housing operators, especially with the bad press brought on by 35 deaths from the virus at a single skilled nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash., the associations serving seniors housing have kicked lobbying efforts into high gear.
The three main groups are the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a Washington, D.C.-based organization supporting the seniors housing industry; Argentum, an Alexandria, Virginia-based trade association dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed senior living communities; and Washington, D.C.-based LeadingAge, which advocates for nonprofit providers of services for older adults, including housing.
On the nonprofit side, LeadingAge is “aggressively working to ensure that our members — and all providers caring for older adults — have the resources they need to protect their residents, clients and staff from this deadly virus,” according to Katie Smith Sloan, the organization’s CEO and president.
Areas of focus for LeadingAge include ensuring that any funds for healthcare include long-term and post-acute providers, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for care providers, general flexibility when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid funds, and various types of relief for affordable seniors housing operators.
A bill expected to pass this afternoon to inject $2 trillion into the economy for pandemic relief originally included a provision that would prevent nonprofit providers that accept Medicaid from accessing Small Business Administration loans. Largely seen as an attempt to keep Planned Parenthood from benefitting, LeadingAge strongly opposed the provision — and it is unclear if the version currently headed for passage includes it or not.
“Being able to access these loans to help offset additional payroll costs, costs for increased amounts of PPE and other increased costs is critical,” says Sloan. “It is unjustifiable that nonprofit providers who serve Medicaid patients (among the most vulnerable) would be unable to access these loans while for-profit provider can.”
LeadingAge hosts a COVID-19 resource page on its website for members. Argentum has a similar page, and has ramped up its lobbying efforts to Congress.
“We are regularly reaching out directly — and asking our members to reach out — to the [Trump] Administration and to members of Congress regarding a number of key priorities including priority access for PPE supplies and testing; providing support for long-term care workers and their families; and guaranteeing liquidity in the nation’s long-term care infrastructure,” says James Balda, Argentum president and CEO.
“We’ve seen a fantastic grassroots response from staff at all levels including community residents, staff and family members,” continues Balda. “We are confident our message is being heard in Congress, and while many decisions are being made at the federal level, state governors and state agencies are also critical in setting priorities. Therefore, we continue to advocate for our priority issues and are working closely with our partners at the state level as well.”
ASHA has been sending out notices to its membership multiple times per day. The association is hosting a variety of webinars and forums, and is encouraging its members to participate in lobbying efforts. In some cases, the organization even provides resources and talking points to help local lobbying be more effective.
“We need to raise the volume and ask that you immediately call and email these leaders with our message today,” stated one email this week, with a link to a contact list and sample emails. “Timing is critical. The more messages we can get into these offices the better.”
The association also keeps its membership apprised of shifting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.