Governor Mills proposed and the Legislature approved the payments in the bipartisan supplemental budget to help facilities recover from the pandemic
Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration has issued $25 million in COVID-19 supplemental payments to 129 long-term care organizations to support their continued recovery from the pandemic. Governor Mills proposed the MaineCare (Medicaid) payments in her supplemental budget that she signed into law in February following its bipartisan passage by the Legislature.
This is the second round of COVID-19 payments the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has provided to nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities in this fiscal year for pandemic recovery, after a previous round of $25 million in August 2022.
“Long-term care facilities provide critical services for Maine people, and they are still feeling the lingering impacts of the pandemic – challenges that have only been made more difficult by increased costs,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I am pleased we are getting these resources into the hands of our nursing facilities and other caregivers so they can continue to do their important work, and I thank the Legislature for supporting my proposal to provide this additional funding. My Administration will continue to work to ensure that high-quality, affordable long-term care is available for Maine people.”
“This last round of COVID-19 payments will help long-term care facilities offset remaining pandemic-related expenses as they continue to recover,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “These payments are part of unprecedented support for these facilities in light of their critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect Governor Mills’ commitment to ensuring that high-quality long-term care is affordable and accessible for Maine people.”
“Today's announcement is welcomed news as Maine's long-term care facilities continue to deal with ongoing impacts of the pandemic including a severe staffing shortage,” said Angela Westhoff, President and CEO of the Maine Health Care Association. “This supplemental support comes at a critical time as nursing homes and residential care facilities are experiencing atypical and exorbitant costs. We are grateful for the Administration and the Legislature’s support and look forward to a continued partnership to address the work force crisis and preserve access to long term care.”
The payments are available for the current 2023 fiscal year and into state Fiscal Year 2024 to facilitate pandemic recovery as the Department continues to work with stakeholders to reform how nursing homes are paid to reward quality and streamline payment administration.
The 129 organizations receiving funds represent 262 service locations throughout the state. The $25 million will be distributed proportional to demonstrated facility need as determined by historical revenue, resident vacancy rates, and spending on contract labor due to staffing shortages.
The supplemental and biennial budget investments build on the Mills Administration’s historic financial and operational support for nursing facilities, which includes:
- In June 2019, Governor Mills signed into law a biennial budget that dedicated $25 million to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to nursing facilities. As a result, nursing facility rates increased, on average, by five percent for Fiscal Year 2020;
- In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, the Mills Administration began $9 million in temporary payment rate increases to nursing facilities for extra costs associated with COVID-19, including staffing above and beyond customary levels to maintain proper ratios and to monitor residents and screen visitors, supplies and PPE, such as face masks and gowns, beyond the amounts typically purchased;
- In November 2020, the Mills Administration announced that it would reimburse nursing facilities for their costs to conduct Federally-required surveillance testing using commercial laboratories;
- In December 2020, the Mills Administration awarded $5.1 million to health care facilities, most of which were nursing facilities, to cover expenses resulting from the pandemic;
- In July 2021, Governor Mills signed the FY22-23 biennial budget that dedicated $36.4 million in cost-of-living adjustments and rebasing funding for nursing facilities;
- In August 2021, the Mills Administration awarded $12.5 million to nursing and residential care facilities to help them cover expenses resulting from the pandemic;
- In September 2021, the Mills Administration delivered $123 million in one-time funding, including $30 million in General Fund dollars authorized through the biennial budget signed into law by the Governor, for nursing facilities, residential care facilities, and adult family care homes to help address workforce issues by retaining current staff or hiring new staff;
- In December 2021, the Mills Administration announced its plan to increase rates for long-term care facilities by $4.5 million from January to June 2022, and add another $7.6 million through the budget for supplemental wage adjustments for fiscal year 2022;
- Effective July 1, 2022, payment rates increased to support paying direct care workers at least 125 percent of minimum wage, on top of rebasing rates which resulted in rates increasing, on average, by 20 percent over the prior year; and on January 1, 2023, rates increased further to support 125 percent of minimum wage;
- In August 2022, the Mills Administration issued $25 million in one-time funding for nursing facilities, residential care facilities, and adult family care homes to help address ongoing workforce issues and relatively low occupancy;
- Since January 2021, the Department has used over $2 million in Federal funds to support emergency nurse and related staffing to nearly one-third of Maine long-term care facilities to support care for residents during the pandemic.
This is in addition to at least $50 million in financial relief distributed directly by the Federal government to nursing facilities across Maine.
Recognizing the need to address the workforce challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Mills included $20 million in the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to support health care workforce training. The Jobs Plan additionally supports marketing campaigns aimed at promoting health care careers in Maine and Healthcare Training for ME, a program to expand the availability of free and low-cost career training to help health care workers advance their careers, support workforce training needs of health care employers, and attract new workers to fast-growing fields. The Jobs Plan is also supporting the Caring for ME campaign to educate and encourage residents to become direct care providers.