Unallocated federal funds from the Provider Relief Fund should be distributed to senior living facilities for the purchase of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment, according to U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN).

“While COVID-19 has impacted countless Americans, our senior citizens are most threatened by this virus. Many of these seniors live in senior living facilities, where staff are working tirelessly to protect and care for them,” Rep. Stauber said last week. “It is imperative we help our seniors and their dedicated caregivers, which is why I am working to distribute unallocated funds to help these facilities recover and continue their important work.”

Rep. Stauber reiterated that stance in a Nov. 12 letter he and a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers sent to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, in which they noted that senior living facilities will be the cornerstone for the federal government’s implementation of rapid testing and vaccinations. 

“To be effective, however, urgent financial resources are needed,” wrote Rep. Stauber and his colleagues. “The costs of caring for those most at risk of infection cannot be overstated, and current financial losses are simply not sustainable.”

In fact, they wrote, senior living communities currently estimate COVID-19-related losses to total $15 billion, largely due to the sharp decline in occupancy rates, with many providers reporting admissions decreases of 75 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

“Such devastating losses are not sustainable and will dramatically impede the ability of these facilities to administer long-term rapid-testing and vaccinations,” Rep. Stauber and the members wrote. “Therefore, senior living communities must have the financial resources to procure tests and acquire the requisite PPE and staff to effectively implement wide-scale testing. We urge you to allocate unused Provider Relief Fund monies, immediately, to provide assisted living communities with much needed support.”

Among the 18 other congressmen who joined Rep. Stauber in signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN), Tom Cole (R-OK), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Barbara Lee (D-CA).