WASHINGTON, D.C. (Erie News Now) -- Earlier this year, a first-of-its-kind federal minimum staffing requirement for nursing facilities was finalized by the Biden administration. 

The controversial rule requires most long-term care and nursing facilities to make serious staff increases at a time when the long-term care industry faces major staffing shortages. 

The new minimum staffing standards require a registered nurse to be on-site in every skilled nursing facility for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Enough staff to provide every resident with nearly three and a half hours of care each day, at a minimum, is also required. 

“This will fuel the access to care crisis,” said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) during an interview in April, in response to the final rule. 

“It was odd to begin with that the federal government would mandate how many people you have to have on staff,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R- PA). “There's no entity worse than the United States government to tell you how to run a business.” 

The long-term care industry and even some lawmakers say the new standards are not practical, calling it executive overreach. 

But neglect and abuse at nursing facilities have been major concerns for years, especially after the deaths of more than 160,000 nursing home residents from COVID-19. 

“If we're going to call ourselves the greatest country in the world, we have to have the best long-term care workforce in the world. And we're just not doing that,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D- PA). 

Casey, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging is trying to ensure that caregiving can be a sustainable, lifelong career. He says his legislation, the Long-Term Care Workforce Support Act, would do just that. 

“It’s one thing to say that we should have minimum staffing levels, I think that's critical to have that in place. But we can't ask these providers to come up with the dollars for those minimum staffing requirements unless we're willing to advocate for more funding,” said Sen. Casey. “States have no resources to do this. It has to come from the federal government.” 

In a statement on Thursday, Shamberg said “Senator Casey and other lawmakers put the cart before the horse by supporting mandates and then conjuring up ideas for legislation." "It’s easy to mandate regulations, but it could take years to advance legislation,” Shamberg added. 

Long-term care advocates say providers need more funding through Medicare at the federal level and Medicaid at the state level. 

“Long-term care providers in Pennsylvania and across the country want to hire more workers and increase wages to be more competitive, but those providers need comprehensive solutions that will serve to support seniors and adults with disabilities throughout the entire long-term care continuum, including funding the cost of mandates. This bill won’t get the job done,” said Shamberg of Casey's legislation. 

The new staffing requirements will be phased in over the next five years, and there are certain exemptions for facilities in rural areas.