11th death linked to Florida nursing home tragedy

Florida lawmakers, emergency management officials and nursing home owners met Friday in a bid to implement new safety rules following a tragedy that resulted from Hurricane Irma.

The group gathered in Tallahassee, the state capital, to try and meet a deadline set by Gov. Rick Scott, who drafted the new rules after a group of seniors died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, the Sun Sentinel reported.

That death toll now stands at 11, after 94-year-old Alice Thomas died Thursday, the Miami Herald reported.

The nursing home became a grim symbol of the devastation of Hurricane Irma, which ripped through Florida earlier this month. 

The deaths at the Rehabilitation Center, which had its license suspended earlier this week by the Agency for Health Care Administration, are currently under a criminal investigation.

Following the tragedy, Scott invoked emergency powers to set forth new rules on nursing homes and assisted living facilities, giving them 60 days to install a generator capable of providing backup power for four days following an outage. Failure to do so will result in a fine.

Impossible deadline?

But some nursing home officials claimed it would be nearly impossible to adhere to Scott’s stipulations.

“Compliance with the rule is impossible and time is running out,” Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, an association that represents both nursing homes and assisted living facilities, told the Associated Press.

Justin Senior, the state’s top health care regulator, warned the industry that the cost of not abiding by the new rules would be “greater than the cost of compliance.”

But a legal effort could take shape to challenge Scott’s regulations, given that they are not currently part of state law.

17,000 flood claims

Meanwhile, cleanup and restoration efforts were still underway throughout Florida, the Miami Herald reported. As of Thursday, nearly 17,000 flood insurance claims had been filed with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

In Washington, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposed a bill that would give temporary tax relief to victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The bill would ease requirements for deducting individual property losses and allow people to draw on their retirement funds without penalty, as well as encourage donations to relief efforts by temporarily removing limits on deductions for charitable contributions.

It “helps hurricane victims keep more of their paycheck, deduct more of the cost of their expensive property damage, and have more affordable and immediate access to money they have saved for their retirement,” he said in a statement. “These tax relief measures will help more people be able to bear the tremendous expense of recovering from these destructive hurricanes.”

Brady plans to formally introduce the bill Monday. 

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