Walz, DFL leaders celebrate nursing home funding

New funding for nursing homes

New funding for nursing homes

Gov. Tim Walz continued his state tour to highlight how funding approved during this year’s legislative session benefits different job sectors.

The governor and DFL leaders stopped Tuesday afternoon at a nursing home in Coon Rapids to spotlight the $173 million in direct funding Minnesota nursing homes started to receive this month.

“Thank you for recognizing the challenges that COVID has put on the senior population in this state,” Steve Chies, owner of the Park River Estates Care Center, said to the governor and legislative leaders. He said so many nursing home workers quit during the pandemic it was hard to stay afloat financially.

“We compressed 10 years of employee turnover into three years,” Chies added. “And so now what we could have dealt with over a 10-year period of time with people retiring…(instead) people said, ‘I’m done. I’m going to retire at this point in time.'”

That funding was part of the bonding bill deal that Republicans and DFL leaders reached in the final weekend of the session. Republicans had held out support of a bonding bill until that time, pushing for more funding for the state’s nursing homes.

Under the agreement, lawmakers earmarked an extra $300 million for nursing homes, including $173 million in direct payments, a $75 million grant program for recruiting and retaining workers and $51 million for a temporary but daily rate add-on for 18 months. The direct payment money is split into two checks — one that was sent this month and another that will be sent next August. The grants are at least $225,000 for each nursing home, but bigger facilities like Park River received $311,000 based on a certain number of beds.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic said the hope is that the funding not only helps the nursing homes but also leads to better care for residents.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth issued a statement Tuesday calling Minnesota Republicans “the only true champions of nursing home funding” during the session.

“Despite a record surplus, Democrats consistently ignored pleas from nursing homes — Gov. Walz and House Democrats dedicated just $3.9 million to new nursing home funding in their original budget proposals, and voted repeatedly against Republican efforts to truly prioritize nursing homes and address the existential threat they were facing,” Demuth’s statement said in part.

Walz and Hortman said the additional funding for nursing homes wasn’t ever in doubt but came down to the wire due to different ideas on how to help nursing homes and end-of-the-session politics.

Walz said the funding did get tied up in end-of-session bargaining but was always likely to happen.

“Sometimes the things we agree on most become the most difficult because whether there’s leverage or no leverage at the end of a legislative session it becomes very frustrating for folks saying, ‘Why are our seniors used as leverage dealing with something else?'” he said.

Republican Jim Abeler(R-Anoka) joined the governor and other Democrats on the tour. He acknowledged Republicans had to push hard for additional nursing home funding.

“Forrest Gump’s mom, if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothing at all,” he joked. “So I’m trying to be nice about it. But this was really important and a big deal and it’s a time to celebrate.”

[anvplayer video=”5187999″ station=”998122″]