Private-pay assisted living providers now have the ability to apply for funding under the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution allocation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes about two weeks after the federal agency told the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) during a call that relief would be coming very shortly, spurred by months of lobbying by ASHA and other industry groups.

Providers eligible for relief will receive 2% of their gross 2019 revenue allocation, which is in line with what other groups across the health care continuum, such as Medicaid providers and hospitals, have received.

ASHA and other industry groups including Argentum, LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) have called for federal relief throughout the coronavirus pandemic, citing the heavy costs incurred from testing, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) and higher labor costs to keep residents safe from the outbreak.

A recent survey from NCAL revealed that 26% of providers indicated that they could sustain operations at their current levels for another six month’s assistance. Already, some smaller senior living providers that were financially stressed prior to the pandemic have begun to experience serious distress.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that opening the relief fund to private-pay providers reinforces his agency’s commitment to helping health care providers with what they need throughout the pandemic.

“By expanding the Provider Relief Fund to assisted living facilities, we are supporting more front-line providers and helping to protect the nearly 1 million vulnerable older Americans in their care,” he said.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda praised the announcement, while adding that more needs to be done.

“We will continue to advocate for the urgent and critical needs of the senior living industry, including seeking priority access to a vaccine once available for those who live and work in senior living communities. It is essential that these communities have what they need to protect their residents and staff and to secure their financial future,” he said in a statement.

NCAL described Tuesday’s announcement as “welcome news.”

“For six months, assisted living caregivers have been diverting significant resources to help acquire personal protective equipment, testing, and additional support for staff,” stated NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle. “Funding from the federal government will help ensure assisted living providers continue these efforts to keep their residents and staff safe as well as remain a reliable long-term care option for their local communities.”

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