SACRAMENTO — Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Miguel Santiago’s (D-Los Angeles) Assembly Bill 279 passed the Assembly floor on May 14 with bipartisan support.

This bill would temporarily halt nursing home evictions and involuntary transfers unless medically necessary during the State of California’s COVID-19 state of emergency period.

Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi and Miguel Santiago

A senior residential care facility would be prohibited from making significant changes to the delivery of residential care services during the COVID-19 state of emergency unless the owner of the facility declares bankruptcy. Significant changes would include the termination of services as well as the transfer of residents to other facilities unless the resident consents to the termination or transfer.

The bill would also require any and all conditions of sale of assets from a not-for-profit entity to a for-profit entity approved by the California attorney general to remain in effect at least during the duration of the state of emergency. The bill also would require notice of transfer of any new facility residents who had recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Finally, the bill would also require the owner of the facility to give at least 90 days advance notice of any proposed termination of the licensed operation to residents.

“We need to protect nursing home residents during this pandemic from being evicted or from suffering transfer trauma,” said Muratsuchi. “Nursing homes in California and across the country have been dumping thousands of residents in homeless shelters and other unsafe facilities during the pandemic to take advantage of higher Medicare reimbursement rates. Seniors living in nursing homes have been among the most vulnerable to COVID.”

“No senior should be thrown out of their home during a global pandemic,” said Santiago. “We cannot let companies like Pacifica displace our most vulnerable and put them at risk of transfer trauma, which can be extremely deadly. AB 279 will provide the necessary protections to keep seniors in Boyle Heights in their home by prohibiting senior health facilities from terminating services or displacing residents during COVID-19. My colleague, Assemblymember Muratsuchi, and I are thrilled to see it pass the Assembly Floor and now head to the Senate. We plan to get it to the finish line.”

Last year, Pacifica Companies, owner of the Sakura Gardens Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) in L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, announced their plan to close the facility primarily serving the Japanese American community and transfer its current residents to other facilities, including nursing homes suffering the highest numbers of COVID deaths in the state. Pacifica applied to the City of Los Angeles for approval of the conversion of the 90-bed ICF into luxury apartments.

The for-profit developer purchased the ICF from the nonprofit Keiro under conditions of sale approved by the California Attorney General’s Office in 2016. Those conditions require ICF residential care services to use the Japanese language and cultural amenities for at least a five-year period. That period ended in February 2021.

Recently, the California Department of Public Health rejected a plan submitted by Pacifica Companies to close and allow for the transfer of residents from the Sakura Gardens ICF.

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