$300 million included in Minnesota bonding bill for nursing homes

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(ABC 6 News) – Days, weeks and months came down to minutes and seconds at the Minnesota Capitol last night. Lawmakers sweating it out over a number of issues before the midnight deadline.

The $2.6 billion bonding bill was a huge one, it passed. And as part of that historic bill, $300 million to nursing homes across Minnesota.

But even though the bill was passed unanimously there are still some differences in how they feel about it. Some republicans believe this was one of the few wins the GOP had this session.

“With the amount of priorities, the majority party seemed to have. This was not one of them. So being able to get this one for our nursing homes was a big deal,” said Republican Representative Patricia Mueller.

DFL Representative Kim Hicks says there were a lot of priorities to address this session – especially when it comes to caregiving.

“As someone who has been a care giver and who has been fighting for that last morsel of bread, we don’t need to be fighting each other. We need to make sure there’s enough bread and that’s what we did this session,” said Rep. Hicks.

But while the back and forth in St. Paul is over, for now. Nursing homes are excited they’re finally getting a break.

“So that’s very helpful. It won’t solve all of our problems, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Susan Knutson with Samaritan Bethany a nursing home in Rochester.

Samaritan Bethany says they are operating at about 50-percent staff. For a facility that can hold over 180 residents they say they are forced to turn people away leaving many beds empty.

According to the advocacy group Leading Age – Minnesota, there were rough 7400 admissions denied at nursing homes in March alone. And because of a lack of funding 10-percent of nursing homes in the state considered closing before the bonding bill passed.

“The reality is access to nursing home care is really an entitlement in the state of Minnesota. If you need nursing home level of care, you do have in Minnesota a value that you should have access to that service. And we were really in jeopardy of not being able to follow through on that entitlement,” said VP of Advocacy for Leading Age – Minnesota Erin Huppert.

The $300 million will be broken up into three parts. $51 million going to directly to nursing home operation costs like staff wages. $170 million is grant money for specific purposes. $ 79 million will go toward workforce incentives.

“We’ll apply for anything we are eligible to apply for, so we are excited that there are some opportunities,” said Knutson.