PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is delaying a new law that would fine nursing homes for failing to comply with minimum staffing requirements.

Gov. Dan McKee signed an executive order Friday that delays the law from going into effect until at least Feb. 14, the Providence Journal reported. The law was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but nursing homes warned they were be unable to meet the requirements amid ongoing staffing shortages.

The order ensures nursing homes “are not put in the position of reducing the number of residents in their facility to comply with the minimum staffing ratio,” the governor’s spokesperson, Alana O’Hare, said in a statement.

The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act passed by the General Assembly last year was expected to give Rhode Island the highest staff-to-patient ratio in the country.

But there were already nearly 2,000 positions vacant in nursing homes across the state in November, according to the Rhode Island Health Care Association and Leading Age Rhode Island.

John Gage, the president of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, said the governor’s action gives nursing homes some breathing room.

Nursing homes statewide would need to hire 2,500 new workers to comply with the mandate, “and there simply are no applicants,” he said.

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