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25 million Blacks, Latinos missing from voter databases; major news organizations urge Biden and Trump to commit to presidential debates; NM gun-control advocates praise federal rule closing 'gun show loophole; Arkansas group raising awareness during Black Maternal Health Week.

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House Republicans want citizenship proof for federal election voting, under White House pressure Israel shows restraint after Iran's attack and Trump's hush money trial starts.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Critical Number of Rural IA Nursing Homes Close

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Friday, January 27, 2023   

Health-care professionals say low pay and a worker shortage have led a dramatic number of nursing homes in rural Iowa to close their doors. They hope increased government funding and more focus on rural health care this year will help.

Looking at a graph that shows the number of nursing-home employees between January 2019 and January 2020, the bright red line goes almost straight down. The pandemic was a big reason for that, but Iowa Health Care Association President and CEO Brent Willet said there are other economic factors at work, and the staffing shortages have already resulted in double-digit closures.

"It is alarming," he said. "The latest figures are, we've had 17 nursing homes in Iowa close in the last 12 months. Fifteen of those 17 have been in rural parts of the state."

Willet said nursing homes can't offer competitive wages to people who are willing to take these demanding jobs, especially in rural areas where the population is declining. He said he remains optimistic, though, adding that the Iowa Legislature will reconsider those wages this year, since more than half of nursing-home funding comes from state and federal governments.

Willet said it's also becoming harder for people in rural nursing homes to get the support they need from other medical-service providers in town. He said this adds to the problems already caused by staffing shortages, simply because those services dwindle along with the population.

"Like dialysis, like their primary-care doctor," he said. "As those services become harder and harder to come by, it creates additional challenges pertaining to costs and logistics to care for people in their home community."

The national long-term care facility numbers are also alarming. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported recently that 129 nursing homes closed in 2022 - although this year, the numbers are starting to improve.


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