Letter to the Hon. Alex Azar, Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services - Cartwright Leads Effort to Keep Seniors in Assisted Living Communities Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic


Dear Secretary Azar:

I write regarding your efforts to support our nation's health care providers through the financial relief programs of the CARES Act, in particular the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

While the first and second tranches of grant money from this Emergency Fund have been allocated to appropriate and deserving health care providers, such as hospitals and other providers, with the most recent distribution of $5 billion for nursing homes who are bravely addressing the COVID-19 crisis, the senior living industry is also serving on the front lines of the pandemic.

Senior living communities, however, have yet to be recognized by with an allocation of funds from the Department of HHS for their service and significant financial outlays for their residents. To date, Medicare providers, hospitals, rural and "hot spot" health care facilities, Indian health care entities, the uninsured, nursing homes, and Medicaid providers have all been allocated funds to help with their expenses. It is critical that operators of senior living communities, which include assisted living, memory care, independent living, and continuing care retirement communities, now also be recognized for the significant efforts they are making to keep their residents and employees safe.

Senior living communities, while neither nursing homes nor hospitals, employ nearly 900,000 staff who are working diligently and compassionately to care for almost two million seniors at heightened risk of severe illness and death by COVID-19. These facilities house a significant percentage of our nation's veterans and their spouses, and we should not overlook them in this time of unique need.

I urge you to recognize senior living communities as a necessary defense against this disease that's attacking our nation. With adequate PPE, testing kits, and working capital, they can help hold down infection and death rates, and, in doing so, keep many seniors out of hospitals, unburdening hospital emergency departments and COVID care divisions.

The financial impact of COVID-19 to every entity on the front lines cannot be overstated. Allocating a meaningful level of support from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to seniors who call senior living communities their home is critical to effectively managing the current crisis.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.