BRISTOL, RI – Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined Governor Daniel J. McKee and Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services Director Kasim Yarn to announce a new $840,000 federal grant for the state-run Rhode Island Veterans Home.  This federal aid stems from a $100 million emergency payment to State Veteran Homes nationwide that Senators Reed and Whitehouse supported in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law in December.

The federal funds may be used to help improve the care and treatment of veterans during the pandemic, including by enhancing cleaning services, purchasing additional personal protective equipment (PPE), temporarily expanding staffing levels, and other investments designed to enhance health, safety and well-being of residents.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will issue guidelines on how the federal funds may be used for health care-related expenses or lost revenues attributable to COVID-19 and Senators Reed and Whitehouse are urging the VA to provide states with flexibility to put the federal funds to areas of greatest need that will protect veterans from COVID-19 and improve their care.

The Senators also note that more help is on the way for the Rhode Island Veterans Home and veterans across the state as a result of the American Rescue Plan.  The new law directs $17 billion in federal funding to help the VA support veterans, including $14.5 billion for veterans’ COVID-19 related health care.  It also sets aside a total of $750 million for State Veteran Homes around the country, including $500 million for construction and $250 million for direct payments.  The State Veteran Homes funding will be awarded to states at a later date, but Senators Reed and Whitehouse estimate the Rhode Island Veterans Home should receive about $2 million from this next round.

In an effort to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the residents and staff at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, the Senators say it is critical for veterans and their caregivers and staff to have continued access to life-saving supplies and resources during the pandemic.

“We must support and protect our veterans and their caregivers. They have sacrificed so much for us and we owe it to them to provide the services and care they need. This $840,000 is a down payment that will help keep residents and staff safe from COVID-19 while providing continued access to a comfortable home setting and skilled medical care.  More assistance for the Rhode Island Veterans Home is coming from the American Rescue Plan.  We anticipate the Rhode Island Veterans Home should receive at least $2 million in additional funds from that newly enacted law.  In the meantime, we’ve got to take steps to prevent and effectively mitigate future outbreaks here and at other long-term care facilities,” said Senator Reed.

“We owe the very best care to our veterans who have served and sacrificed for the nation.  I’m proud to join Senator Reed to announce an initial $840,000 to help protect residents of the Rhode Island Veterans Home as COVID-19 continues to circulate.  More aid from the American Rescue Plan will be on the way soon, including funding to deploy surge staffing teams to long-term care facilities dealing with outbreaks,” said Whitehouse, who championed the surge staffing provision included in the American Rescue Plan.

“Rhode Island’s veterans have selflessly sacrificed so much for our state and nation. It is our obligation to support them, especially during difficult times,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan will help provide vital resources to those living at the Rhode Island Veterans Homes and in congregate care facilities – this aid comes at a crucial time in our state’s COVID-19 response. I thank Senators Reed and Whitehouse for working tirelessly to secure the services and funding we need to support all Rhode Islanders and keep them safe during the pandemic. I look forward to continued partnership with our congressional delegation and Director Yarn to give our veterans the quality of life they deserve.”

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing the residents of the Rhode Island Veterans Home an environment that is safe and truly improves their quality of life,” said Director Yarn. “We’ve worked hard to keep the pandemic at bay, and this funding secured by Senators Reed and Whitehouse will help to continue the highest quality care for residents. Working with Governor McKee, our state partners, the residents and their family members, we will ensure that the brave men and women who served so honorably and heroically continue to age healthily, happily, and safely here at the Rhode Island Veterans Home.”

One of the provisions in the new law will also make federal funds available to Rhode Island to deploy nursing “surge teams” to respond to future COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities across the state.  COVID-19 surge teams are composed of about eight to 10 members from among local emergency responders, medical workers, non-profits, private businesses, clergy, and sometimes members of the National Guard.  If an outbreak hits a long-term care facility, the surge teams can bring more resources and personnel to the scene and can replace staff that is quarantining and provide safe, high-quality care for vulnerable residents.

Nursing “surge teams” have already been used with success in various states, including Massachusetts, to ramp up care in locations that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 cases.

The Rhode Island Veterans Home is a 110-acre complex on Mount Hope Bay in Bristol.  The $121 million long-term care facility opened in 2017, and about 200 veterans can call it home at any one time.  The facility provides quality nursing and residential care to Rhode Island war veterans, including social, medical, nursing, and rehabilitative services.