The state continues to fall further behind in convening a group to study long-term care services in New York.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are wondering what's happened with the Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force created in legislation last year. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed it into law last December.

The group could have started meeting almost two months ago, but state leaders have yet to finalize or name each of its members for appointment.

"Since taking office, Gov. Hochul has taken significant steps to support the long-term care population through legislation and executive action," governor's spokesman Justin Mason said in a statement Tuesday. "She is eager for this task force to begin its important work in examining the state of long-term care and considering potential models for improvement, and is urging all stakeholders to submit their nominations so the task force can convene."

Lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to create the task force after the COVID-19 pandemic revealed deep issues in the state's long-term care, like nursing homes and at-home locations.

The task force was created to examine what isn't working for long-term care providers, residents and their families and consider potential models to improve these services.

It took effect Oct. 27 — 45 days after the Hochul's last executive COVID-19 disaster emergency ended. Members must to report their findings and recommendations to the governor and legislative leaders in about four months, according to the statute. Lawmakers would have to pass additional legislation to give the task force more time. Staff of bill sponsors say they're open to the idea if the group requests a reasonable extension.

Assemblyman Josh Jensen wants Hochul to act urgently so the group can meet after waiting in limbo for nearly two months.

"The fact that this task force has not begun its work as statutorily required in preparation of a deadline to submit findings... that, to me, is unacceptable," said Jensen, a Republican from Greece. "When you talk to long-term care providers in our state, if you talk to residents, their families, the model isn't working as effectively as it should. And if the Legislature is going to take the time and create a task force to improve it and the governor is going to sign it into law, then we should be fulfilling its obligation to complete its mission."

Republicans in the Assembly Minority conference sent Gov. Kathy Hochul and the commissioners of the state Health Department and state Office of the Aging a letter requesting they swiftly convene the group and prevent further delay.

Only a handful of the 26 members on the task force, who will not be paid for their time, have been appointed to date. 

Assembly Republicans chose Colleen Rose, vice president of long-term care at Rochester Regional Health. Rose could not be reached for comment.

"Our appointment from the Assembly Minority as part of the task force has not heard anything from the executive branch, from the Department of Health, from the Office of the Aging, whose leaders are the co-chairs of this task force, about when it's actually going to start it's work," Jensen said. 

Other members of the task force said Tuesday they've received background check paperwork from the Health Department, but nothing else to date.

Several state agencies started work on a statewide Master Plan for Aging last week. 

Assemblyman Ron Kim, who chairs the Aging Committee, says that master plan is a priority and some of the work could be an overlap, delaying the task force.

"They're prioritizing the master plan first and then maybe they'll circle back with the task force, which should have similar recommendations," said Kim, a Queens Democrat.

Kim led an Assembly hearing about at-home adult-care services in Albany on Monday, and listened to patients and workers about rampant abuse common in these facilities.

He'll use the testimony to propose legislation next session to improve grant programs for long-term care overseen by local governments and more flexible funding for homecare.

But because the task force's responsibilities are law, Kim says the governor needs to follow through. 

"Even if it's redundant, what's done is done and they should follow through and administer properly because sooner or later, we will have hearings to question specifically, what happened with the task force? And what's going on with the Master Plan?" Kim said.

The state Health Department will announce the task force's next steps once legislative leaders name appointments for their members. The governor will give each appointee her final approval. 

"Protecting New York's most vulnerable populations, including people in nursing homes, is our top priority, and that's why the Department of Health acted quickly and aggressively to issue guidance specifically for these facilities on testing, infection control, environmental cleaning, staffing, visitation, admission, readmission and outreach to residents and families," according to the department.

Once completed, the Master Plan for Aging will be the state's first.

The Master Plan for Aging State Agency Council is co-led by the state Office for Aging and the Health Department, and is comprised of agency commissioners and designees invited to come together to begin the process, according to the Health Department. The departments will assemble a committee of stakeholders, including representatives from health care and support service providers, consumers, informal caregivers, older adults experiencing disparities, health plan companies, labor and community-based organizations, employers, experts on aging, and academic researchers, among others.