New York should create a victims compensation fund to help families of residents of nursing homes who perished during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates on Wednesday said.
Supporters of the legislation include Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim, a vocal critical of the state's handling of long-term care facilities during the pandemic, as well as New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Williams this week announced he is exploring a potential run for governor in 2022.
“The Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act will make it very expensive for our state and the nursing home industry to commit eldercide," Kim said. "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."
The proposal would create a compensation fund as well as amend how New York law defines wrongful deaths and statute of limitations in order to broaden legal options for families. And at the heart of the proposal are regulations that would bar further liability constraints on nursing homes in New York.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the early weeks of the pandemic were barred by a state order from rejecting patients who were COVID-19 positive. The order was later rescinded, but not before thousands of people living in those facilities died.
Meanwhile, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is under a criminal investigation for how the state was tabulating the deaths of residents and where they died.
"So many families across New York lost loved ones due to the state’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis in nursing homes that helped make our state the epicenter of the epicenter of the pandemic," Williams said. "In a time of crisis, their government failed them, and they deserve answers and accountability."