HARRISBURG – The Senate approved new funding today to provide a critical layer of support for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and volunteer fire and EMS companies that are struggling due to COVID-19, according to one of the bill’s prime sponsors, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Long-term living facilities have been a hotbed for COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, accounting for nearly a quarter of all cases and more than two-thirds of all deaths associated with the virus. 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 major national accounting firm found that 70 percent of nursing homes in the country will be in a negative cash position by mid-May.
Senate Bill 1122, also sponsored by Senator Joe Pittman (R-41), would distribute $507 million in federal money to nursing homes and other assisted living facilities to ease the considerable strain placed on these organizations by COVID-19.
Beaver County, which Bartolotta represents, is the only county in western Pennsylvania that remains in the red phase of reopening, due almost entirely to cases in a small number of nursing homes. As of Monday, 347 of the county’s 491 total cases are residents or employees of nursing homes and personal care homes. A Senate hearing last week brought to light numerous failures by the Wolf Administration to protect and provide support to our most vulnerable population.
“The more we learn about this virus, the more we see the devastating impact it is having on older Pennsylvanians, especially in congregate care settings,” Bartolotta said. “Our nursing homes have not received the support they need from the Wolf Administration, and many of these facilities are struggling immensely as a result. We need to take immediate action to make sure our long-term living facilities can climb out of the hole the Wolf Administration has dug for them.”
The bill would also establish a special one-time grant program for Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies and EMS providers as they address the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program would allocate 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 for this program.
“COVID-19 has severely restricted many of the ways that our volunteer first responders traditionally raise money, like boot drives, cash bashes and chicken barbecues. The needs of these organizations are even greater now as they respond to the statewide public health emergency this virus has caused,” Bartolotta said. “This program will help to ensure the brave men and women on the front lines fighting this battle against the coronavirus will continue to have the training, supplies and equipment they need to keep our communities – and themselves – safe.
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.
Senate Bill 1122 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463