There is growing concern about the future of many Northern Virginia group homes that serve severely disabled adults.
Advocates for The Arc of Greater Prince William County say the homes have been left out of the federal CARES Act funding that is allocated by state officials.
Amy Grimm, a 53-year-old resident of one of the homes, can’t speak, but her sister said the frequent smile on her face makes it clear she enjoys life in the group home where she gets her own bedroom and the round-the-clock care she needs.
“She can’t brush her teeth herself. She can't speak, she cannot walk. It is very important to have people there for her,” said her sister, Laurie Cronin.
“These are people that, although they don’t function like you and I, they enjoy things. They have things they like.”
But the pandemic has brought some big changes to the group homes.
Community outings have been put on hold and off-site adult day services are closed for now.
So with residents at home all day, more staff is required.
“We’ve had to put on extra staffing especially for the daytime hours where normally folks would be off to their daytime placements, their adult day services,” said Karen Smith, Arc of Prince William executive director.
She said overtime costs have also spiked as staffers cover for colleagues who must quarantine.
The operators of 17 group homes in Prince William County are trying to stay afloat as COVID-19 has driven up costs.
Smith said they’ve spent an extra $368,000 so far this year on extra staffing and personal protective equipment.
Advocates for group homes would like to see them get the same kind of special coronavirus funding that nursing homes are receiving.
It would amount to about $20 per resident per day.
“We would like to be part of that and treated like nursing homes because our folks would be in nursing homes if they weren’t with us,” said Smith.
The advocates are pushing Virginia lawmakers, who are still meeting in special session, to add the funding as they adjust the budget to account for COVID-19 impact.
Prince William County Del. Luke Torian, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that he is optimistic the concerns can be addressed during the special session.
“We are aware of these requests and we are in contact with disability services groups and advocates regarding their needs and what can be accomplished legislatively to support them," said Torian.
Cronin has a dire prediction about what would happen if any of the homes were forced to close, if her sister or other residents had to relocate to nursing homes.
“It’s a knot in my stomach. It breaks my heart because I don’t know what the heck we would do, honestly. To have her in a nursing home would basically be a death card for her,” said Cronin.