Hillsborough County Nursing Home

Signs of support line the driveway to Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown.

Nursing home and home-care workers will lose their $300 emergency stipend starting Saturday, a move that may prompt some already stressed nursing homes to close, a trade association warned.

As of Friday afternoon, Gov. Chris Sununu had not extended an emergency order that had created the stipend for workers at long-term care and home-care companies.

“It’s a very scary time for our staff, and these stipends have been a critical tool for our heroes doing battle on this pandemic’s frontline. As he has before, we’re praying the governor hears our call to extend this program again,” said Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes.

Sununu created the stipend in April to keep workers on the job as nursing homes faced increased pressures of sicker patients and fewer workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Sununu’s office blamed the federal government, saying New Hampshire needs more money.

“At this time, the lack of federal support for the State’s budgetary needs has forced a reevaluation of priorities for the State’s remaining CARES Act funds,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “Unfortunately, this means extension of the Long Term Care Stabilization Program is not possible at this time.”

Sununu said Tuesday about $250 million remains of the $1.25 billion New Hampshire received from the CARES Act federal relief bill.

The governor’s office pointed to other state aid available for nursing homes. Sununu said Thursday he would open another round of applications for a $19 million state fund for long-term care facilities. Nursing homes are eligible to apply for the money, but they will be competing with facilities that care for people with disabilities, at-risk children and people with substance-use disorders.

When the Republican governor extended the stipend in May, he said it was to discourage workers from seeking unemployment and its accompanying CARES Act stipend of $600. That stipend expires today too.

In a statement today, the New Hampshire Health Care Association said the nursing home stipend should continue. More than 700 vacancies exist for licensed nursing assistants in the state, Williams said.

He noted that a Sununu-authorized 10% pay hike remains intact for New Hampshire liquor store workers, as does a $3 an hour pay increase for people who clean restrooms and empty trash at Hampton Beach state park.

COVID-19 staffing pressures have reportedly forced the closure of a Medicaid-contracting assisted living facility, Rose Haven in Merrimack.

“We’ll see more closures without the extension of these stipends,” Williams said.

Monday, August 03, 2020