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Assisted living operators in Washington holding out hope for federal aid

House plan for the federal $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package did not include help for senior facilities.

MILTON, Wash. — Protective gear, social distancing and room service have all helped Mill Ridge Villages in Milton prevent its 75 residents from getting COVID-19 over the past year.

“Knock on wood,” said Raminder Nijjar, the facility's executive director.

Preventative measures cost the assisted living industry more than $186 million over the past year, according to Stuart Brown, CEO of Village Concepts, operator of 15 facilities in Washington, including Mill Ridge. He said his facilities are hoping for federal assistance, but House members decided against including $3 billion in the $1.9 trillion rescue package for facilities like his.

Brown hopes the Senate’s package will include aid for long-term care homes.

“We can’t shut down, we can’t go outside and operate like a restaurant can,” Brown said.

He said while more than 93% of his residents have been vaccinated, and 60% of employees, Village Concepts has no plans on cutting corners on health measures, which could put anyone at risk.

However, without federal assistance, Brown said they might look at raising prices. 

“Unfortunately our seniors are on fixed incomes,” Brown said.

Brown said that other providers might not have that option.

“For smaller facilities, I could see them having issues of viability.”