Budget Committee Clears Bill Package Addressing Long-Term Care in New Jersey

TRENTON – In light of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on our long-term care community and the subsequent investigation by Manatt Health, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee cleared a series of bills to improve conditions, preparation and outcomes in New Jersey’s LTC facilities.

Several bills incorporate recommendations for improving conditions and response at long-term care facilities outlined in Manatt Health’s report on long-term care in New Jersey.

“COVID-19 has taken an immense toll on our long-term care community,” said Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “This legislation is a combination of Manatt Health’s recommendations and the committee’s extensive discussions with stakeholders and concerned residents. This community is comprised of some of our state’s most vulnerable residents – we can and must do better for them than we did at the onset of this pandemic.”

“The fatal consequences of the COVID pandemic fell the hardest on nursing homes, veterans’ homes and other long term care facilities that are home to our most vulnerable population of New Jersey’s residents,” said Senator Joe Cryan (D-Union). “It is tragically obvious that there was an absence of safeguards to better prevent and respond to the outbreak. There are hard lessons to be learned that we should use to be prepared for a possible second wave and to help prevent this from happening again. These proposals can begin the process of developing action plans to protect the health and the lives of employees and residents of long term care facilities.”

“The staff at our long-term care facilities have been on the front lines of this pandemic since it struck in March. They have provided care and invaluable companionship to residents unable to see their friends and family, all while putting their own health and wellbeing at risk,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Much like the hazard pay we see in other industries, this legislation would provide supplemental compensation for the incredible work they have been doing these past several months.”

“COVID-19 devastated our long-term care community and it pains me to hear about how helpless the residents and staff members were at the height of this pandemic,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex). “Establishing the New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety would allow us to develop and implement improvements across the board. Our most vulnerable residents and their caretakers deserve better and this legislation would make sure improvements are realized.”

The following bills passed the committee today:

S-537 (Codey): would require that the temperature within emergency shelters, rooming and boarding houses, nursing homes, and residential care facilities be maintained within a range of 65 degrees through 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

S-2758 (Cryan): would establish minimum wage requirements for certain long-term care facility staff and establish a direct care ratio requirement for nursing homes.

S-2785 (Gopal): would require long-term care facilities to adopt and implement written policies, provide for the practical availability of technology to facility residents and ensure that appropriate staff and other capabilities are in place, to prevent the social isolation of facility residents.

S-2786 (Weinberg): would allow per diem health care workers working within long-term care facilities to accrue paid sick leave.

S-2790 (Cryan-Vitale): would establish certain requirements concerning the state’s preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics affecting long-term care facilities. The bill would establish the Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center (LTCEOC) in the Department of Health (DOH), which would serve as the centralized command for long-term care facility response efforts and communications during infectious disease outbreaks.

S-2813 (Vitale): would establish a temporary rate adjustment for nursing facilities to support wage increases and to cover costs related to COVID-19 preparedness. The bill would make a one-time appropriation of $62.3 million from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services for the purpose of putting the bill into effect.

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