By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – On Monday, Gov. Chris Sununu reactivated New Hampshire’s Long-Term Care Stabilization Program, which will offer stipends to frontline health-care workers at Medicaid facilities until Dec. 31.
It will be the same as the program that ended in July – a $300 per week stipend for full-time workers and a $150 stipend per week for part-time workers.
“The resurrection of the workforce stipends couldn’t come at a more challenging time. They’re very necessary, and very appreciated,” said Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association.
“It makes sense, too, as the state — like other states — is up against the deadline to spend the CARES Act flex funds. No better way to spend them than on the heroes incurring COVID-19 risk while caring for the state’s own clients.”
Reactivating the stipends was on the list of 15 recommendations made by the Committee to Study the Safety of Residents and Employees in Long-Term Care Facilities, which reported to Sununu earlier this month.
Their list included five items addressing staffing issues, another four grouped under wages, and another six recommendations the committee decided to group under operational changes.
The focus on long-term care facilities was prompted because about 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire have been associated with long-term care facilities.
See InDepthNH.org’s special report on the crisis in Nursing homes here: http://indepthnh.org/2020/10/23/a-storm-is-brewing-for-n-h-nursing-homes/
To date, the state has expended $67.6 million in stipends to workers at Medicaid facilities through the earlier stabilization program, according to a news release issued by Sununu.
The state also expended $30 million to long-term care facilities through the State’s Health Care System Relief Fund.
“The State of New Hampshire remains committed to ensuring that long-term care facilities have the resources needed to confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sununu said.
Due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases here in New Hampshire, Medicaid providers that provide long-term services in facility-based settings as well as in the home and community are experiencing increased challenges in retaining their frontline workforce, which has threatened critical staffing levels needed to provide continuity of long term supports and services to individuals in those programs, the release said.
When talking with long-term care facilities, workforce retention remains a top concern. It ends Dec.31 to conform with CAREs Act stipulations that all dollars must be spent before 2021.