Menendez Introduces Bill to Ensure Seniors in Federal Housing Can Live Safely, Stay Healthy during Pandemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, today introduced the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act that would provide $1.2 billion to ensure that federally-assisted senior housing facilities have the necessary resources to effectively protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on our communities and families, it has had a relentless, devastating impact on our nation’s seniors, especially elderly Americans living in facilities that struggled with lack of protection, staff and resources,” said Sen. Menendez. “Congress has an obligation to help our most vulnerable during this crisis and that means making sure our federally-assisted senior housing facilities have the necessary resources to effectively protect and ensure residents remain safe, healthy and have access to key services during the COVID crisis.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“All Americans deserve safety and dignity in their senior years. The moral test of any nation is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens—and that has never been more important than right now during this crisis,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This legislation will help improve senior housing facilities and protect our seniors’ health as well as their mental, emotional, and financial well-being.”
“Recent reports show that more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and long-term care settings. This is unacceptable – and underscores the complete negligence of President Trump in managing this crisis and coordinating a comprehensive response. We must take action. This legislation is a key step forward in ensuring federally-backed housing for older Americans have the resources they need, and we’ll be pushing for its passage immediately,” said Senator Van Hollen.
The Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 would provide $1.2 billion to the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance programs, including $845 million for obtaining PPE, cleaning and disinfecting properties, hiring additional staff and providing rental assistance.
The average age of residents in Section 202 properties for older adults is 79, and nearly 39% of residents are older than age 80. Their average annual income falls below $14,000 and there are profound disparities in both COVID-19 infections and virus-related deaths.
The bill also includes:
• $50 million to install Wi-Fi services in senior housing communities;
• $7 million to extend the Integrated Wellness in Supportive Housing (IWISH) program for one year; and
• $300 million to expand service coordination.
“As older adults face the worst pandemic in a century, it’s time for federal leadership. That’s why LeadingAge is thrilled to support Senator Menendez’s Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults bill, which needs to be part of Congress’s next COVID-19 package. Affordable senior housing communities across the country are struggling to meet COVID-19 expenses and meet the needs of more than 700,000 very low income older adult residents,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge.
“B’nai B’rith International, as the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian housing for seniors in the United States, is uniquely aware of the need to allocate additional financial resources for HUD senior housing in response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mark Olshan, Ph.D. associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International and director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. “Consequently, we are pleased to support the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 introduced by Senator Menendez. This legislation provides critical funding for senior properties to better meet challenges associated with the virus, including the ability to purchase more personal protective equipment, expand service coordination and WiFi accessibility. During a time of national crisis, we are thankful that Senator Menendez is leading the effort in the Senate to ensure that senior housing has the resources to combat the pandemic.”
B’nai B’rith International provides housing for nearly 200 seniors across New Jersey at B’nai B’rith Chesilhurst House, B’nai B’rith Elmwood House and South Orange B’nai B’rith Federation House.
The legislation is also endorsed by AARP.
Earlier this week, Sens. Menendez and Brown introduced the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Act to expand access to critical assistance programs and services for millions of families struggling to remain in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. According to research, homeowners who receive counseling have a better chance at avoiding default, protecting their credit scores, reducing debt and securing mortgage modifications.
The text of the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act can be downloaded here.