PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Six months after state lawmakers approved $30 million in federal relief money for Rhode Island nursing homes, the money still hasn’t gone out the door.

The money — funded with a portion of the state’s $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars — was included in the new state budget that cleared the General Assembly back on June 23. It was among a long list of initiatives and programs that state leaders paid for with the one-time federal windfall.

There are over 80 nursing homes across Rhode Island. Lawmakers directed that at least 80% of the $30 million for the facilities be “dedicated to direct care workers,” according to the House Fiscal Office, and that the funding should get distributed based on each facility’s Medicaid patient census in 2020.

Derek Gomes, a spokesperson for the R.I. Pandemic Recovery Office, confirmed earlier this week that McKee administration officials are still sorting out the paperwork necessary in order to cut checks to the nursing homes, which were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gomes said the U.S. Treasury Department requires “financial and key performance indicator reporting” for ARPA funds spent by states, and emphasized it takes time “to ensure that all U.S. Treasury requirements will be met.”

The office “anticipates completing this process for the nursing home project within the next week, and the funds will be transferred soon after,” Gomes said.

Vincent Marzullo, a former state AARP president who currently serves on the board of the Senior Agenda Coalition of RI, expressed exasperation that the nursing homes didn’t receive the money more quickly, arguing it should be going out immediately.

“It’s extremely troubling that the state administration seems not to have any urgency and/or concentrated attention to the well-being and capacity demands of our nursing homes — which have struggled all during this pandemic,” he wrote in an email.

Marzullo pointed to a report last spring by the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP that found 95% of nursing homes in Rhode Island are losing money, with 87% of them at “financial risk.”

“The owners/operators have had to increase care hours, obtain more protective equipment, increase wages, and in many cases change their business model with the promise of receive financial aid back to July 1,” he wrote, adding: “This bureaucratic delay is unjust and completely unwarranted!”

It’s not the first time the administration has faced criticism for failing to get federal relief money out the door quickly.

Similar criticism was voiced early this year by providers that participate in the Early Intervention program for at-risk babies and toddlers, who complained that they were still waiting to get $2.6 million in emergency funding two months after it was approved. The money went out soon after the Senate Finance Committee questioned the delay at a hearing.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook