July 02, 2020

Van Hollen, Menendez Introduce Bill to Ensure Seniors in Federal Housing Can Live Safely, Stay Healthy During Pandemic

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today in introducing the Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act – legislation 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. 

“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.

“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.), 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.” 

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.

The legislation is also endorsed by AARP.

Earlier this week, Senators Van Hollen, 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.