Mills Administration Issues $25 Million in COVID-19 Payments to Support 211 Long-Term Care Organizations

Governor Mills proposed and the Legislature approved the payments as part of bipartisan budget to help facilities recover from the pandemic

Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration has issued $25 million in one-time COVID-19 payments to 211 long-term care organizations to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Mills proposed the MaineCare (Medicaid) payments in her supplemental budget that was passed by the Legislature on a bipartisan basis. Additionally, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is increasing flexibility in the use of these and related funds, such as for fuel and other costs related to global inflation.

“Long-term care facilities provide critical services for Maine people, and they are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic – challenges that have only been made more difficult by inflation,” said Governor Janet Mills.  “I am proud the Legislature supported my proposal to provide additional funding, and I am pleased we are getting these resources into the hands of our caregivers quickly so they can continue to do their important work – it could not come at a better time.” 

“This injection of funding will help long-term care facilities offset unexpectedly high costs such as contract staff, food, and other pandemic-related expenses,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “The grants are part of unprecedented support for these facilities that not only recognizes their critical role during the COVID-19 pandemic but reflects Governor Mills’ commitment to making high-quality long-term services and supports affordable and accessible for Maine residents.” 

“Today's announcement is welcome news as Maine's long-term care facilities and their dedicated caregivers continue to feel the impact of COVID-19,” said Angela Westhoff, President and CEO of the Maine Health Care Association. “We appreciate Governor Mills' recognition of the persistent strain on providers and are thankful that additional resources are being distributed. We are also pleased with the Administration’s response to our request for greater flexibility in the use of these funds with respect to labor costs, as our members persevere to provide care to thousands of vulnerable Maine citizens each day.” 

The 211 organizations receiving grants represent 272 service locations throughout the state. The $25 million will be distributed proportionally based on each facility’s 2019 MaineCare revenue and total MaineCare bed days in 2021. For facilities that received little to no MaineCare revenue in 2019, the Department will use revenue from a more recent 12-month period to determine distribution of the supplemental payment amounts by facility.  

The Department is also informing long-term care facilities about greater flexibility on the uses of one-time funding to help them recover from the pandemic and combat rising costs associated with inflation. This includes addressing pandemic-related cost increases of hiring and retaining staff and higher expenses, such as for food, fuel, and energy bills. This flexibility applies to the new $25 million announced today as well as to any remaining funds from last year’s $123 million one-time COVID-19 supplemental payments to nursing facilities, residential care facilities, and adult family care homes.  

These payments 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 5 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 vaccinated 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. Rate letters including these amounts are forthcoming, with the higher rates being retroactive to July 1. 

This is in addition to at least $50 million in financial relief distributed directly by the Federal government to nursing facilities across Maine.

Pandemic Support: Since the beginning of the pandemic, nursing facilities have submitted and received over 330,000 COVID-19 test results from Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory and these facilities have also placed over 6,400 personal protective equipment (PPE) requests and received over 2.1 million pieces of PPE. Since January 2021, the Department has used over $2 million in Federal funds to support 23,910 hours of emergency nurse and related staffing to nearly one-third of Maine long-term care facilities to support care for residents during the pandemic.

Workforce Training: 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. This includes scholarships and student loan relief to enable more people to become behavioral health specialists, long term support workers, emergency medical services staff, and other health professionals. 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. 

Cabinet on Aging: Governor Mills established the Cabinet on Aging on June 13, 2022 to help Maine prepare for and address demographic changes by advancing policies that will support Maine people in aging safely, affordably, and in ways and settings that best serve their needs. The Cabinet will bring together State government agencies to improve coordination and to accelerate action. It held its first meeting on July 28 and is likely to consider reforms to long-term services and supports in Maine.