While infection rates dropped in September, the approaching flu season and colder months have officials concerned.
“If providers had access to these funds earlier, it would have greatly helped with our operational decisions and ultimately, it would have eased a lot of angst and stress that our staff have been under for months,” said Deke Cateau, CEO of A.G. Rhodes, which operates nursing homes in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties.
As of the end of June, the state still had about $2.4 billion worth of CARES Act federal funding to pay for dealing with the pandemic, although much of that has been since spent.
In a release announcing the funding, Kemp said, “My top priority from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been to ensure the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens.
“Early on, Georgia was among the first states in the nation to deploy National Guard personnel to conduct infection control missions in long term care facilities, with over 1,000 visits completed. The state also supplied tens of thousands of testing materials, sent additional staffing to facilities in need, provided infection control equipment, and shipped critical PPE items across the state.”
But House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said that for several months he’s been urging the state to spend more CARES Act money on nursing and long-term care facilities.
“It’s not doing the elderly and aged population any good sitting in a state account,” Ralston said. “I am happy it (the money) is finally getting out. It is really critical we get that out to this industry as soon as possible.”
Kemp said $78 million of the $113 million would be made available to meet testing requirements at the nursing homes. An extra $35 million would help cover additional staffing at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities through the end of the year. The governor said that would “ensure facilities have the personnel necessary to safely provide care to their residents.”
Since April, the state has spent $36 million to augment staff at long-term care facilities where outbreaks created shortages.
While nursing operators credit the Kemp administration’s help acquiring protective equipment and the deployment of the National Guard, other states across the Southeast had moved more quickly to increase state funding for nursing homes, said Tony Marshall, president and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association, which represents most nursing homes in the state. Marshall also credited Ralston for pushing hard in support of the increased funding.
Neil Pruitt, chairman and CEO of PruittHealth, one of the largest nursing home operators in the Southeast, said his company has racked up more than $19 million in pandemic-related expenses at its facilities in Georgia. He said he appreciates the governor’s announcement and eagerly awaits the details.
Our Georgia “centers have received significantly less financial support than we have received in the other states where we operate,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We are hopeful Governor Kemp’s announcement will bridge this gap.”