(The Center Square) – New Hampshire is injecting federal relief funds into its long-term care system to help prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
On Wednesday, the Executive Council approved a request from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to accept $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to fund the county’s nursing home infrastructure program, which will help county governments to cover the cost of upgrading nursing home facilities.
“This fund will help ensure that our county nursing homes have the infrastructure and capacity to keep residents safe,” Sununu said in a statement after council approved the measure. “By responsibly using these one-time funds for one-time investments, we are able to provide benefits to the citizens of New Hampshire for decades to come.”
The request says the funds will be used to “help mitigate and prevent the spread of future outbreaks of COVID-19 in county nursing homes, ensure safe facilities for residents and their families, and help fund the improvement of facilities.
According to the plan, the counties are to cover the majority, or 60%, of the project costs while the remaining 40% will be covered by the state.
Federal regulations attached to the funding will require projects to improve or expand existing facilities, according to the Sununu administration.
The proposal still needs to be approved by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee, which is due to consider Sununu’s request at its meeting on Friday.
Like most states, nursing homes in New Hampshire have been hit hard during the pandemic with high numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Even before the pandemic, New Hampshire policymakers were grappling with nursing home staffing shortages that made it difficult to deliver care and services.
The state has lost more than 1,200 health care aides in recent years, according to the New Hampshire Health Care Association, a shortage that has been exacerbated by the recent hiring crisis.
Low Medicaid reimbursement rates in the state make it difficult for long-term facilities to retain workers and maintain competitive salaries, the association noted.
An executive order Sununu signed provided stipends of $300 a week for nursing home workers during the pandemic, but federal funding for the stipends has expired.