A bill to reauthorize funding for programs that prevent elder abuse also would provide $400 million annually for states to enhance education and training for direct care workers in long-term care settings.
Senior living association leaders are calling the Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2021 a “great first step” to helping providers recruit and retain workers.
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, said the bill incorporates proposals from the association’s Care For Our Seniors Act and provides a “desperately needed focus on workforce investment.”
“This piece of legislation is a great first step to help ensure every facility has the ability to recruit and retain the necessary staff to ensure our residents receive the level of care they need and deserve,” Parkinson added. “Caregivers are the backbone of nursing homes and assisted living communities, and we need to make sure they are being adequately supported so they can provide the highest quality of care to our elderly population.”
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said the bill is a “much-needed move toward achieving our vision of making America a better place to grow old.”
“The Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act includes critical support that older Americans and their caregivers need to avoid and prevent financial exploitation, physical and psychological abuse, and other unacceptable forms of elder abuse,” Sloan said.
The $4 billion bill, which would provide funding for new and existing programs through fiscal year 2025, was introduced Saturday by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), co-chair of the House Elder Justice Caucus.
The measure would reauthorize the Elder Justice Act and commit specific funding to programs that address the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. It also would create three new programs to address needs underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, the legislation proposes a $1.6 billion investment over four years in the long-term care and post-acute care workforce. The program reimagines an existing — but never funded — long-term care workforce program, providing dollars to states to recruit, train and retain workers providing aid, nursing and social work services.
The funds would need to be used to provide wage subsidies, student loan repayment or tuition assistance, child care or transportation. The funds also could be used to establish a reserve fund for emergency financial assistance, provide paid leave, assist with lowering barriers to employment and providing in-kind resource donations.
The legislation also would direct $250 million to address social isolation. Under the proposed bill, the Department of Health and Human Services would establish a grant and training program for community-based organizations to serve as technical assistance hubs and referral centers to address social isolation among older adults and people with disabilities.
The bill also would create a new program to invest $500 million in medical-legal partnerships. The multidisciplinary teams combine clinical staff with social workers and lawyers to address the social and legal needs of older adults. But Sloan said it’s “disappointing” that aging services providers were not included in that partnership mix.
“These partnerships are an integral part of the elder abuse shelter movement founded by LeadingAge member River Spring Health, and we will work to encourage legislators to expand this new program as we support this legislation moving forward,” Sloan said.
The proposed bill also would provide $1.4 billion for adult
protective services to investigate reports of elder abuse, neglect and
exploitation, and $172.5 million for long-term care ombudsman program
grants and training.