Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has activated the National Guard for response teams to provide support to long-term care facilities that are experiencing staffing shortages.
The governor is also proposing providing $50 million in federal funding to long-term care facilities to help with hiring and staff retention, a news release says.
“Our long-term care facilities are facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, and that’s why we are taking unprecedented action to support skilled nursing workers, residents, and patients,” Gov. Walz said in Monday's news release. "Financial support will help our skilled nursing facilities hire and retain talented staff to care for patients, and the Minnesota National Guard is preparing to fill any staffing gaps."
"I am deeply thankful to the skilled nursing personnel who work so hard to care for so many Minnesotans every day,"O Walz added. "I pledge to do whatever it takes to help Minnesota’s long-term care community get through this challenging time.”
To start, 400 Minnesota National Guard members will train as certified nursing assistants and temporary nursing aides over the next seven days. They'll then serve as skilled-nursing "response teams" to support long-term care facilities that are short-staffed.
Meanwhile, National Guard members continue to be deployed at the state's alternative care sites in Brainerd, St. Paul and Shakopee. Those sites provide transitional care to people who no longer need to be hospitalized, allowing hospitals to focus on those sick with COVID-19 and those needing emergency support.
Last week, Walz announced emergency federal medical teams were coming to Minnesota to support hospitals and relieve doctors and nurses as hospitals fill up amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota.
In addition, Walz says he'll use $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan money for immediate emergency grants to long-term care facilities for employee hiring and retention.
The Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission is reviewing the governor's request, and if it gets approved the Minnesota Department of Human Services will distribute the grants in December.
“This latest COVID-19 surge is a challenge for everyone, and it is especially difficult for long-term care providers who have been on the front lines of this pandemic for nearly two years,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “These actions provide vital support for this workforce at a time of need. We ask all Minnesotans to recognize that they have a role to play here as well. They can help reduce the pressure on our health care and long-term care workers by doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through vaccination, masking, and other prevention measures.”
Walz says the state's nursing facilities have received a variety of state and federal aid amid the pandemic, including $120 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness and $180 million in federal provider relief funds.