WASHINGTON—AARP released the following statement today from Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer, in response to the introduction of the HEALS Act:
“While the HEALS Act addresses some important issues related to the COVID-19 crisis, Congress must do more to protect residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, who remain in grave danger from the virus. Right now, COVID-19 continues to spread like wildfire through the nation’s long-term care facilities, with at least 59,000 Americans dead. We appreciate that the HEALS Act includes some support for nursing homes, like much-needed strike teams and potential resources for testing. But much more is needed. The bill lacks guardrails and funding to ensure: regular, ongoing testing of nursing home residents and staff; adequate PPE that is both available and properly used; daily, public reporting of cases and deaths; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and virtual visitation so families can connect with their loved ones, who have been living in isolation for five months. In contrast, the package provides immunity for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, whose residents and staff account for over 40% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States.
“We are pleased this bill includes much-needed economic relief for older adults, in the form of automatic payments, which will help those struggling to afford basic necessities. We also applaud the draft for including additional support for families with adult dependents. Unfortunately, there are still too many older Americans facing hunger, especially with skyrocketing food prices, and more food assistance is urgently needed.
“While this bill is short on needed COVID-related relief, it includes the TRUST Act, a bill that is unrelated to the crisis and that wrongly targets Social Security and Medicare to reduce deficits that have expanded because of needed pandemic relief. These programs are critical to millions of Americans who rightfully expect Congress to be careful stewards of their earned benefits. Social Security is the principal source of income for over half of older American households, and roughly one quarter of those age 65 and older depend on it for nearly all (90% or more) of their income. And Medicare provides the critical health coverage they need. The TRUST Act provisions should be dropped from the bill.
“We urge Congress to come together in a bipartisan way to save lives and address the urgent health and economic crisis before us. Families across the country are demanding action.”
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.