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Florida lawmakers back more than $100 million for private and veterans nursing homes

Florida lawmakers Thursday signed off on providing more than $100 million to private and veterans’ nursing homes struggling with worker shortages and other financial problems.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, a panel of House and Senate members that can make midyear budget decisions, approved providing $99.5 million in state and federal money to nursing homes over a three-month period through increased Medicaid payment rates.

Officials said the infusion of money would help nursing homes grappling with worker shortages and reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Financial challenges have made it increasingly difficult for providers to sufficiently invest in their workforce and support our health care heroes,” Emmett Reed, CEO of the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry group, said in a prepared statement Thursday. “This much-needed Medicaid funding will help Florida's nursing centers begin to emerge from this double-edged workforce and economic crisis so they can continue providing the highest quality of care possible to those they serve."

Lawmakers also approved funneling an additional $4.46 million to state veterans’ nursing homes to help with staffing shortages. Bob Asztalos, deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, said the money is needed because nursing homes have had to rely on staffing agencies for workers.

Agencies charge more than what the department would pay in employing workers such as certified nursing assistants. Asztalos said agency workers should only be used in emergencies, and the department is looking for ways to move away from a reliance on them.

“They should not be there day to day taking care of our veterans, and that is what they are doing,” he said.

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