PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A bill that gives Rhode Island's nursing homes the highest staff-to-patient ratio in the nation has been signed into law by Gov. Daniel McKee, despite objections from industry leaders who said it will lead to nursing home closures.

Advocates, however, say the staffing mandate will improve resident safety and lead to better pay for workers, problems that were highlighted during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we take a step forward for staff, residents and their families,″ McKee said during the signing ceremony on Thursday. “Stronger staffing standards and funding for direct care staff will help raise the bar on resident care in our state.”

The law establishes an average of at least 3.58 hours of direct nursing care per resident, per day, starting next Jan. 1, and 3.81 hours starting Jan. 1, 2023, which both sides agree is the highest staff-to-patient ratio in the nation.

Nursing home owners warned of mass closings, due to mounting losses and years of state cuts to Medicaid reimbursement.

The Rhode Island Health Care Association, a coalition of nursing homes, said the bill attempts to legislate “the impossible.”

Association president Scott Fraser said nursing homes already have a hard time filling open positions.