Coronavirus has killed about 7,000 residents of long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania.By Chris Hoffman

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — A new lawsuit filed against Pennsylvania claims millions of dollars are being withheld by the state from long-term care facilities. This coming as COVID-19 case continue to rise in nursing homes.

Multiple long-term care advocacy groups – LeadingAge PA, the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, and the Pennsylvania Coalition of Affiliated Healthcare and Living Communities said the lawsuit was the last thing they wanted to do. They said after months of negotiating with the state, not a penny of the $153 million has yet to be given to nursing homes. This money can be used for PPE, testing and distributing a vaccine.

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The Country Meadows of the South Hills Retirement Home in Bridgeville is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. They reported 25 residents and 14 employees testing positive.

“Increased community spread, unfortunately, equals a greater likelihood of greater spread in our long-term care facilities,” President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association Zach Shamberg said over Zoom.

According to the new lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court, much-needed help has not been distributed by the state’s Department of Human Services.

“We need every dollar possible at our disposal to make sure that we can keep people safe,” President and CEO LeadingAge PA Adam Marles said.

Three nursing home advocate groups said the state received the money from the federal government. It was to be given to long-term care facilities, but none of it has gone to nursing homes.

“At a time where nursing facilities have been at the center of the pandemic, the government would say we know based on the law, that we need to give you these dollars and yet we’re withholding them,” Marles said. “It’s inexcusable.”

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Those organizations spent six months negotiating with the state, but it has not worked. Now they are drawing their line in the sand.

“Ultimately, this funding needs to go to protect the residents that we serve. The most vulnerable population for the COVID-19 virus,” Shamberg said.

They feel the state law is clear and this money was mandated for nursing homes. It was not to be used for filling holes in the budget.

“We are fighting for providers. We’re fighting for workers,” Shamberg said. “We’re fighting for residents, who by state law are owed these critical dollars.”

KDKA reached out to the Department of Human Services, which released this statement:

“This lawsuit seeks only more money for nursing facilities throughout the commonwealth that have already received more than $800 million in taxpayer stimulus. The assertions made in the materials the associations distributed to the media are simply false. The money at issue is being used to support residents of our nursing facilities.”

The Executive Director of Pennsylvania Coalition of Affiliated Healthcare and Living Communities Chase Cannon provided this statement:

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“After months of discussion with the Commonwealth on funds designated to Pennsylvania long-term care facilities, we took action yesterday to fight for all of Pennsylvania’s long-term care communities as well as their residents to make sure they receive what is rightfully theirs. It is important to remember that these funds were mandated to be sent to long-term care residents and their providers. In such an important time when we all need to be working together, we are disappointed that these actions have taken place. Ultimately, we know that our actions will result in long-term care communities receiving what is rightfully theirs and to ensure long-term care residents are not pushed aside and forgotten.”