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Assisted living facilities plea for help to fight COVID-19

Assisted living facilities have a message to lawmakers: there's a critical need for help fighting COVID-19 in the places where so many parents and grandparents call home.

CARMEL, Ind. (WTHR) — Assisted living facilities have a message to lawmakers: there's a critical need for help fighting COVID-19 in the places where so many parents and grandparents call home.

Now a top executive has created a national letter-writing campaign to ask for federal funding.

The letters and emails that went out this week are a call to action.

They ask residents, staff members, family members and regular citizens to contact Congress and request money to protect seniors and staff members at assisted living facilities.

“When you speak of nursing homes and funding, assisted living should be part of that conversation.”

"When you speak of nursing homes and funding, assisted living should be part of that conversation," said Chandra Stradling, vice president of operations with Sunrise Senior Living, based in Virginia.

The personal plea for help in the pandemic comes from the CEO of Sunrise Senior Living, Chris Winkle.

Sunrise has facilities across the country, including one in Carmel.

Sunrise says it has implemented measures such as in-room only dining, taking staff temperatures and social distancing, but fighting this virus is a monumental and expensive task.

"It's been extremely difficult," Stradling said. "We just feel as if assisted living maybe has gone unnoticed and we'd really like to be seen. We take care of the same vulnerable populations that nursing homes do."

But she says unlike nursing homes, which are typically government-funded, assisted living is private pay.

So Stradling says these facilities have not received any federal dollars to fight the coronavirus, even though they house at-risk populations and employ health care workers to care for them.

Airlines have received money.

So have restaurants, retailers, hospitals and nursing homes.

The letter from CEO Chris Winkle also mentions the quick testing of NBA players.

His campaign calls on Congress to act for assisted living, too.

Specifically, they're seeking money for gowns and masks, COVID-19 testing and financial support for staff.

"Personal protective equipment is critical for what we're doing and what we're combating out there with this virus," Stradling said. "Testing. That is something that we haven't really seen. Some areas are much better than others and so really having consistent testing equipment and supplies and the manpower to do it."

The urgency put toward lawmakers is for resident and staff safety, who Sunrise Senior Living executives believe have been overlooked.

"What we are trying to really gain is the same kind of funding that the nursing homes and other companies and entities are able to see," Stradling said. "While there are so many heroes out there right now, our team members are heroes as well."

Here's the letter from the Sunrise Senior Living CEO: