State directing $80 million in COVID relief for skilled nursing facilities

Last updated on November 18th, 2020 at 02:18 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and the Department of Health Services announced Tuesday they will direct $80 million to support the state’s hard-hit skilled nursing facilities through the end of the year.

About half of those funds will be used to cover eligible costs associated with the CARES Act Provider Payment program, which is designed to help skilled nursing facilities weather the losses and expenses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DHS is directing another $30 million into a skilled nursing facility post-acute care admission incentive program, which will support nursing homes with the cost of staffing additional beds, allowing them to admit more residents directly from a hospital and alleviating some strain on the hospital system.

“This has been an incredibly challenging time,” Evers said. “And we can’t express our appreciation enough for the staff at all our skilled nursing facilities. We are truly grateful for their efforts in showing up to work every day and caring for our loved ones, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to support them in any way we can.”

Nursing homes have been particularly challenged during the pandemic, as they face the increased costs of wide-scale testing of residents and supplying workers with personal protective equipment, along with decreased revenue from fewer hospital referrals. The industry was already operating on narrow margins prior to the pandemic.

Across the state, there have been 530 COVID-19 public health investigations at nursing homes, including 290 that are active, according to DHS data. A single positive COVID-19 test result among staff or residents prompts a public health investigation at a nursing home.

In May, Evers announced $100 million in federal relief would be directed to long-term care, emergency medical services and home and community-based services for expenses related to COVID-19, such as overtime pay, changes to sanitation procedures and disruptions to care.

DHS also said Tuesday it will work with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services to recruit new and former health care workers to address critical staffing shortages in the state’s health care and long-term care settings.

“Our long-term care facilities have been vital to our statewide COVID-19 response,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “These frontline workers are putting their lives on the line to care for our most vulnerable Wisconsinites. By investing in the state’s long-term care facilities, we are able to support their continued efforts.”

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