AUGUSTA — A bill from Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, to increase funding for Maine nursing homes and senior living facilities earned unanimous, bipartisan support in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. The vote was 10-0 with three members absent.
LD 949, “Resolve, To Provide Additional, Critically Needed Funding to Maine’s Nursing Facilities for Costs Related to COVID-19 through Rate Relief and Grants” directs $20 million to maintain emergency rate increases that support nursing facilities and the hardworking professionals who care for the residents.
“Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine’s nursing and long-term care facilities have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to their residents and our loved ones. In the most difficult and unrelenting conditions, they continued to provide quality, compassionate and personal care to their residents, finding creative ways to connect residents with their family members,” said President Jackson. “Now, Maine lawmakers must show the same commitment to our nursing homes and the hardworking professionals who work there. It’s not enough to talk about support, it’s time for action. It’s why I’m proud to throw my full support behind this proposal.”
LD 949 also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to allocate $12.5 million in remaining available federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, for facility grants to cover COVID-19 expenses.
“As part of Maine’s recovery, we must support the frontline workers and the sectors of our state who stepped up during the pandemic. Nursing homes and direct care workers can not be left behind in our state’s recovery, as they were a crucial part of our public health recovery and care infrastructure,” said Speaker Fecteau.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic largely due to the ability of the virus to quickly spread in congregate living settings and the high risk the virus poses to older people and individuals with health conditions more common among seniors.
“Maine’s nursing homes have been hit incredibly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the early months when we were still trying to get a handle on how to best protect our most at-risk residents. Nursing home staff had to adjust to increased safety protocols while trying to keep their patients’ spirits up,” said Sen. Baldacci. “This bill is critical to helping our nursing homes and long-term care facilities rebound from this crisis. I’m grateful that the committee has endorsed this proposal.”
“Maine’s long-term care facilities have been the battleground for COVID-19. Our dedicated employees have worked tirelessly caring for residents whose lives have been upended by the pandemic. Caring for people during this time comes with atypical and exorbitant costs,” said Rick Erb, MHCA President and CEO. “MHCA appreciates Senate President Jackson and Speaker Fecteau’s clear understanding that the battle isn’t over. We welcome the level of relief being proposed today that builds on the Mills’ Administration’s change package. It is absolutely critical to providing care.”
LD 949 will now go to the floor of the Senate and House for initial votes.