Home- and community-based service providers to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents are rushing to take advantage of a one-time windfall of federal money that is being handed out by the state.
Just days after it started allowing people to apply for the hundreds of millions, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration by Wednesday already had received 131 applications.
The ongoing staffing shortages that have rippled through the nation’s health care industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is evident in the applications so far.
All but one of the submitted applications was asking for help to bolster the industry from continued job losses and to grow the workforce that provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Under its current plans, the state has made $403.7 million available for one-time provider stipends to support program activities and another $266.6 million in one-time stipends to providers to grow and retain their workforces through bonuses and incentives.
Most of the 130 applications AHCA received were submitted by providers that want to tap into both pots of money. However, there were 22 applications submitted for the support program funds and another 12 applications submitted by providers who want to tap into workforce funds.
Tyler Sununu, President and CEO of the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, said the large number of applications underscores the crisis home- and community-based services providers are facing.
“Many agencies who provide services through the iBudget Waiver are struggling to keep their doors open as reimbursement levels haven’t kept up with costs,” Sununu told Florida Politics. “I am very thankful the application portal has opened up and providers will be able to get some one-time funding to help keep them providing the vital services they deliver to individuals with intellectual disabilities until a more permanent solution is enacted.”
AHCA Chief of Staff Cody Farrill told lawmakers earlier this month the agency was developing potential distribution methodologies. The formula, he said, will take into consideration providers’ caseloads. But until the agency knows how many applications for the grant money it receives it won’t finalize the distribution formula.
The state also had received one application for grant money being made available for the purchase and installment of delayed egress systems meant to thwart elopement from community group homes. In all, the state is providing $12 million in grant money for those purposes. The state won’t award any grant applicant more than $10,000.
AHCA is accepting grant applications through Feb. 14.
The grants are being made possible after the DeSantis administration moved over the summer to take advantage of a 10% bump in federal Medicaid dollars available under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Most Florida Medicaid patients who receive home- and community-based services either are enrolled in the Medicaid managed long-term care program or the Medicaid iBudget program. The former is for frail and elderly individuals who qualify for nursing home placement but choose to receive assistance with daily living activities, such as eating and dressing, that enable them to continue to live in their homes or another non-institutional setting.
Similarly, the Medicaid iBudget program allows adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to tap into the home- and community-based services they require to continue living outside an institution and in their family home or a group home.