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Caregivers, seniors have earned kudos

As the COVID-19 pandemic threat to our health and economy still rages on, no one is more on the frontlines of the pandemic than seniors and caregivers.

As executive director of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association, I have witnessed the response of our personal care and assisted living caregivers, and I could not be prouder of them.

We are not nursing homes.

Our members provide seniors with an independent living setting with personalized care; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Yet the support for senior living providers, particularly in the American Rescue Plan is abysmal.

Less than 2% of funding is being allocated to assisted living centers.

In the face of woefully slow relief passed in Congress last December, coupled with over $15 billion in losses due to increased expenses, and record low occupancy rates, the personal care and assisted living providers we call home for our parents and grandparents are in crisis.

What does this mean for these communities we call home?

Over half of personal care and assisted living providers anticipate closures within the next year if meaningful relief does not come.

While prisons, jails and detention centers have their costs for PPE, testing and vaccines covered in the bill, there is little relief for our seniors who are on the frontlines of COVID-19.

If these communities close, seniors will lose their homes, and workers will be laid-off.

The $6.2 billion economic impact that senior living communities provide in Pennsylvania will no doubt shrink dramatically.

But there is more at stake in this bill then the economy, the quality of life for our nation’s most vulnerable is in jeopardy.

As the new Congress and administration get to work, life-saving vaccinations, effective testing, and operational assistance for senior living must be prioritized.

Eliminating this virus from senior living communities, and keeping these communities open will require sufficient funding.

I strongly encourage you to ask our leaders in Washington not to leave our seniors behind.

Margie Zelenak is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association (PALA).

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