HARRISBURG – June 25, 2021–Sen. Michele Brooks is pleased to announce that the 2021-2022 state budget, which will soon be on the governor’s desk, includes a new program that she developed and advocated for, to help fight against the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases by improving ventilation systems in nursing facilities, personal care homes, and assisted living residences.
“Despite the valiant, loving efforts that staff provided to loved ones during the pandemic, we saw COVID-19 plague congregate settings,” Brooks said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “When indoors, ventilation mitigation strategies can help reduce viral particle concentration. The lower the concentration, the less likely viral particles can be inhaled into the lungs (potentially lowering the inhaled dose); contact eyes, nose, and mouth; or fall out of the air to accumulate on surfaces…Ventilation system upgrades or improvements can increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants.”
In an effort to help battle this and other airborne viruses, this new program, approved as part of the budget, will appropriate $5 million to the state Department of Human Services (DHS) from federal American Rescue Plan funds to support long-term care facilities in installing indoor air management systems to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other transmission based on newer technologies.
“The tragedies we witnessed in our nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic were heart-wrenching, as infection rates swept through homes at alarming rates, and our parents, grandparents and loved ones often spent much of their time alone,” Brooks said. “Evidence suggests that improvements to heating and air conditioning systems are one way to help deter this type of transmission route.”
Air management strategies that would qualify for funding include:
- Airflow patterns
- Outdoor air ventilation
- Demand-controlled ventilation
- Temperature and humidity distribution and control
- Ultra-violate germicidal irradiation
- Personalized ventilation systems for certain high-risk tasks
- Portable, free-standing high-efficiency particulate air filters
- Ionization technology
“Skyrocketing costs from the COVID-19 pandemic — coupled with stagnant Medicaid reimbursement rates — have prohibited long-term care providers from investing in infrastructure improvements and upgrades that could further protect residents and frontline workers,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. “This new grant program will afford providers the opportunity to invest in these essential improvements. We are grateful to Senator Brooks for her leadership in prioritizing nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities, as well as Pennsylvania’s aging population.”
Under Brooks’ program, the Department of Human Services will develop an application and submission process within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. Grants are capped at $15,000 per facility and must be available to all geographic areas of the state.
“This language mirrors my legislation, Senate Bill 385, which was unanimously reported from the Senate Aging & Youth Committee, but with a change in the administering agency,” Brooks added. “There is a regional component to this grant program to ensure that every part of the state has the opportunity to receive these dollars. I urge our long-term care facilities to apply quickly once they are notified from DHS that they are accepting applications as these grant dollars will go quickly. By acting upon some of the lessons learned and making permanent, fundamental changes, it is my hope that seniors, their families and staff at these facilities will never again have to endure what they have gone through for nearly 17 months.”
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