State lawmakers want to set up a massive $4 billion nursing home victims compensation fund aimed at providing fiscal relief for the thousands of families whose relatives died after contracting COVID-19 in nursing homes.
The legislation — sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens) — will allow families to submit applications to a nursing home victims compensation board and receive payments from the state.
The bill is modeled after the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund to provide aid to victims of the terror attacks, including those with medical conditions from breathing the toxic stew from the collapsing World Trade Center towers.
Families will be eligible for a minimum payout of $250,000 for every loved one who died of the virus, and spouses and dependents will each be able to receive a minimum payment of $100,000, Kim said.
“The Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act will make it very expensive for our state and the nursing home industry to commit eldercide. At the peak of the pandemic, it is abundantly clear that our state government’s only motivating factor was protecting industry profits over people’s lives,” said Kim.
“We must make it prohibitively costly for others to harm older adults. To do otherwise would be to normalize ‘eldercide’ and enable the complete abandonment and neglect of older adults for ‘productive members’ of society.”
Separately, the bill would extend the statute of limitations for civil claims and causes of actions for personal injury or death of nursing home residents tied to COVID-19, according to the bill memo.
“This bill puts forth regulations to prevent future constraints on liability for nursing homes, ensuring that injustices of this nature will not happen on such a massive scale ever again in this state,” it reads.
It’s unclear where the funding will come from in the state budget, but Kim said he plans to meet with Assembly leadership within the next month to discuss the bill.
Over 15,000 residents died due to COVID-19 in nursing homes since March 2020, but families were barred from suing because a provision — drafted by the state’s powerful hospital lobbying arm and supported by nursing home groups — was snuck into the state budget granting health care facilities and workers liability immunity from negligence suits.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo later repealed the “Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act” April 2021 following uproar from lawmakers, advocates and families.
But New York’s nursing home policy has been mired in controversy since the pandemic’s start — an infamous order issued on March 25, 2020 banned nursing homes from denying the admission or readmission of coronavirus patients from hospitals and also prohibited them from testing residents for the deadly bug.
Although the order was rescinded in May 2020, independent reports confirmed its effect resulted in “several hundred and possibly more than 1000 deaths.”
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who resigned in disgrace last month following a damning sexual harassment report released by investigators hired by state Attorney General Letitia James — refused to make public the total number of deaths in long term care facilities for months, excluding the number of residents who were transferred from homes because they were so sick and later died in hospitals.
A lawsuit filed by the conservative Empire Center for Public Policy compelled the state to release the accurate data and later on James’s office released a January report confirming the death toll was likely 50 percent higher than what the state Department of Health was reporting.
Then, The Post exclusively reported that Cuomo’s top aides admitted to withholding data from the federal government because they “froze” and feared retaliation.
The shocking admission prompted an investigation into the matter by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn — which is apparently ongoing — as well as a key tenet of a state Assembly Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry.
The body is anticipated to issue a report within the next several weeks, according to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx).
Representatives for Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (Westchester) and Heastie could not be reached for immediate comment on the compensation fund bill.
There is still no official state Senate sponsor for the legislation.
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