LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)- Two Senators are asking for a combined $65 million. They want to use those funds to help gain and retain staff who take care of our elderly Nebraskans. This money would come from both the American Rescue Plan Act funds and general funds. The money would be dispersed based on the number of beds at the facility. Not only would this money help gain and retain skilled nursing staff, but it will help with all of the added costs the pandemic has caused these facilities.
“From 2020 to 2022, we have seen an increase in our payroll cost of $775,000 due to overtime and additional costs for recruitment and retention. Plus we have experienced an increase of $32,000 in supply costs for PPE or disposable meal service,” said Tracy Lichti Chair of Nebraska Assisted Living Association.
A representative for Vetter Senior Living, which owns over 25 assisted living and nursing facilities across the state, said, the need is there for these extra funds.
“It is more of a challenge right now for the skilled nursing facilities because they need more employees who are in the skilled field. They have to be skilled, they have to be certified nurses, nursing aids, or med aids. It’s much more labor-intensive. There are needs on both sides though. Right now it’s very competitive. It’s very difficult to find people to train them, retain them at the same time. We are very optimistic about this bill, and we are very appreciative of the senators who are behind it and who recognize this immediate need,” said Karl Beiber Vetter Senior Living.
$5.5 million is being requested by Senator Dorn to help staff at assisted living facilities. It would also help pay for personal protective equipment and testing supplies.
“Anything that we can do to attract and retain people to give them the compensation that they really deserve for the hard work that they are doing. Anything that we can do to help is a great benefit, and this is one bill that definitely helps in that regard,” said Beiber.
$60 million is being requested by Senator Stinner as incentive payments for those employed at licensed and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities.
“The Governor did appropriate some funds, to go out and help at least until this fiscal year but he did not for the next fiscal year, so it picks up after the Governors,” said Senator John Stinner.
These funds can make a huge difference for facilities across the state on the brink of shutting down.
“There have been several nursing homes that have closed over the last several years, this idea came about to help retain employees, help get new employees, there is a critical staff shortage going through COVID and now coming out of COVID and all of that and to help with some funding so that they can maintain solid footing,” said Senator Myron Dorn.
Another bill aims to give bonuses to front-line nurses who work at the bedside of patients. They kept the term “front-line nurses” broad so that it would not only encompass hospitals, but also nursing homes and rehab facilities.
No immediate actions were taken on any of the bills. The appropriations committee must approve and add these funds to their budget before it can be debated upon by senators.