TRENTON, NJ — Saying that residents and staff of long-term care facilities in New Jersey have borne an outsized burden of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy signed several pieces of legislation on Wednesday to address systemic challenges, mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and strengthen preparedness for future outbreaks.
Of the more than 14,000 New Jersey residents killed by COVID-19, 6,757 were residents of the state's nearly 700 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, while another 121 staff members were killed by the virus in the state.
The legislative package, which received bipartisan support, puts into law several recommendations made in Manatt Health’s rapid review of the state’s long-term care facilities, including:
- Wage enhancements for frontline staff,
- Improved response coordination, and
- Robust data reporting procedures.
“The residents and staff of our long-term care facilities have borne an outsized burden of this pandemic,” said Murphy. “While we know this has not been a tragedy unique to New Jersey, we will learn from this crisis and emerge as a national model for solving immediate challenges and building future resilience."
Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson added that Wednesday’s action will" deliver new Medicaid funding of $130 million—a 10-percent increase—over the remainder of the fiscal year to nursing homes to increase wages for the frontline certified nursing aide workforce and to support facilities’ compliance with health and safety directives, including COVID-19-related infection control, PPE, cleaning, staffing and other needs."
"These are critical steps as we work across the state to continue to fight the virus and prepare for any potential second surge this fall,” said Johnson. “We thank our partners in the Legislature for working together with us to advance our shared goal of supporting nursing home residents and the staff who work tirelessly to care for them."
- A4476/S2790 -- Sets requirements concerning New Jersey's preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks.
- A4481/S2787 -- Establishes the New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety, which will to develop recommendations to improve the safety and quality in long-term care.
- A4482/S2758 -- Establishes minimum wage requirements for certain long-term care facility staff, establishes direct care ratio requirements for nursing homes, and requires nursing home care rate study.
- A4547/S2813 -- Authorizes temporary rate adjustment for certain nursing facilities and appropriates $62.3 million to pay for a nine-month Medicaid rate increase that would raise direct-care worker salaries and buy personal protective equipment
According to Murphy, these measures not only support ongoing efforts to "get things right for [New Jersey's] long-term care residents, staff and families," but also ensure that the state has "strong measures in place to deal with bad actors in the industry who put profit before people."
“This package of bills will improve the resiliency and quality of our long-term care facilities and strengthen their emergency preparedness,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Most importantly, they provide the recognition the Certified Nursing Assistants deserve through wage increases and career ladder opportunities.”