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Iowa Seniors Call on Congress to Address Nursing-Home Crisis in HEALS Act

Iowa seniors say the Senate Republicans' coronavirus relief package needs to do more to address safety of nursing home residents and staff. (Adobe stock)
Iowa seniors say the Senate Republicans' coronavirus relief package needs to do more to address safety of nursing home residents and staff. (Adobe stock)
July 31, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa - The latest novel coronavirus relief package - also known as the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act - announced this week by Senate Republicans, addresses some important issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Iowa seniors think Congress needs to do more to protect residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Anthony Carroll, associate state director for advocacy with AARP Iowa, said 465 Iowans in long-term care homes have died of the virus as of this week.

He thinks the proposed $1 trillion legislation should make these homes a priority and include more funding for personal protective equipment and regular testing of residents and staff.

"We have to do better in the U.S. Senate as they debate it," said Carroll. "And then also making sure that the U.S. House understands the urgency to get this right and to come together in a bipartisan way that better protects our most vulnerable in nursing homes and other long-term care settings across Iowa and the country."

Senate Republicans now are negotiating with Democrats on the legislation. But they haven't been able to agree on what the relief package should include - even though COVID cases are rising across the country.

Carroll notes that Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley had put forward the "Emergency Support for Nursing Homes and Elder Justice Reform Act." He thinks some of the best parts of that legislation are now included in the HEALS Act package.

"For instance, looking at supply of PPE, regular testing at no cost to residents and personnel," Carroll said. "And making sure that the HEALS Act does have some strike teams to help states like Iowa respond to COVID in nursing homes."

Last month, a nursing home in Dubuque was cited for allowing employees with novel coronavirus symptoms to continue working. Inspectors with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals say that might have led to 11 resident deaths and 95% of the residents testing positive.

Disclosure: AARP Iowa contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - IA