Written by North Country Now on May 19, 2020

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is cosponsoring the bipartisan Advancing Connectivity During the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors Act (ACCESS Act).

Many older Americans and individuals with disabilities rely on nursing homes for care in their older years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has severely isolated them from their family members and healthcare providers.

The ACCESS Act would authorize emergency funding of $50 million for the Department Health and Human Services’ Telehealth Resource Center to assist nursing facilities in expanding their use of telehealth services.

It also requires HHS to share recommendations to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities during the pandemic and establishes a grant program to allow nursing facilities to facilitate “virtual visits” with loved ones during the pandemic.

“My district is home to many seniors who reside in nursing homes and elder care facilities, and their lives have been severely disrupted by this public health crisis,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This legislation will be crucial in helping our seniors stay better connected to their healthcare providers and their families throughout this unprecedented time. It is essential that we continue to protect our most vulnerable population from risking exposure to the virus, while still providing them with the telehealth and family virtual visits for human connection that they so desperately need. I will continue to advocate for support for our seniors throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond.”

“During this frightening time, the health and safety of people living in nursing homes, assisted living, and other residential care facilities is paramount, which is why it is so critical that they have the ability to virtually visit and communicate with their loved ones while in-person visitation is restricted,” said Bill Sweeney, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for AARP.

“Expanding access to telehealth in nursing homes can also help ensure more efficient and effective access to care and use of nursing home staff, especially when there are greater demands and responsibilities for care.”

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