State announces $100M in aid for nursing homes, other health services

    Photo by Getty Images

    Nursing homes, home health and community health services and emergency medical services will share in $100 million in federal aid tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday.

    The funds are the latest announced from Wisconsin’s allotment under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The money is intended to support “providers most at risk for financial hardship” during the pandemic, the governor’s office said in a statement.

    Long-term care facilities have been spotlighted during the pandemic as locations of particular concern, although they haven’t been the site of severe outbreaks to the degree that they have in other states. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) has set a goal of testing all long-term care facility residents and staff in the state, a task that is still underway.

    Kteile Smith (Photo via DHS YouTube video screenshot, 5/21/2020)

    “We need that type of support and coverage of testing on an ongoing basis,” nurse Kteile Smith, of St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna, said at a DHS media briefing on Thursday.

    Keeping nursing home residents safe from COVID-19 requires both professionalism and caring on the part of staff and cooperation on the part of the general public, she added.

    “We have had two positive cases between our campuses,” Smith said. “And we have successfully done our jobs ensuring that those individuals did not spread their infections to other long-term care facilities.”

    She and her fellow employees work hard to follow all the necessary protocols to prevent the spread of infection, Smith told reporters.

    “But as long-term care staff, we are a small part of the broader community, and we should not shoulder all of the responsibility for keeping this virus out of our facilities,” she said. “This is a public health crisis that requires so much more than our individual sacrifices. We will continue to fight for every resource we need to protect the lives of those who serve, because we will not let loss of life in our facilities become an expected or acceptable outcome.

    THE MORNING NEWSLETTER
    Subscribe now.

    DHS will distribute the health services funds in two phases, each of them to offset expenses directly resulting from  COVID-19: the first to cover immediate needs in the organizations receiving them, and the second to cover individual providers’ other needs. Qualifying expenses include those brought on by the interruption of normal operations, such as overtime pay, new procedures to sanitize facilities, and changes in how care is delivered.

    In an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal published Thursday, Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan said announcements would be coming soon for another $800 million in CARES-funded relief programs for local communities.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.