Senior living communities need support
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff of senior living communities here in Delaware and across the country have worked tirelessly to protect their residents and their families. Unfortunately, while these caregivers have stood on the front lines against the virus, the federal government continues to drag its feet in getting them the relief funding they desperately need.
Delaware has almost 4,000 seniors who live in assisted living facilities. Out of the 33 facilities operating in the state, a majority are operating at a loss. So far, federal relief funds have covered just 2 percent of the estimated $65 million in losses they have sustained. With no real economic relief to support their operations, many facilities are able to serve fewer and fewer seniors. Even more frustrating for these communities, a significant amount of the federal Provider Relief Fund dollars that were supposed to help them are still sitting in government coffers and not being used to support caregivers.
At the state level, I have supported our seniors and the hardworking providers who care for them in many ways over the years: From the Easterseals volleyball challenge, which raises money for services for seniors and individuals with disabilities, to the annual state budget and the funding it allocates to senior centers and caregivers across the state. I’ve seen firsthand the need for resources for seniors, and helped many of them and their families connect to programs and facilities to serve them.
Throughout the pandemic, seniors have remained the population most at risk. The caregivers and communities where they live have taken extraordinary steps to protect this vulnerable population, for which we cannot thank them enough. Their efforts were critical, but they came with increased costs for things like personal protective equipment and facility improvements to make social distancing possible.
Now, as Congress seeks to pass a massive social spending package, there is a very real possibility that senior living facilities again will be left out. Congress must include assisted and senior living facilities in this round of funding to ensure that we can protect our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers. Let’s not leave them behind again.
Rep. Valerie Longhurst represents the 15th District and serves as majority leader in the Delaware House of Representatives.