New York State Health Care Worker Bonus Program
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers across the country are working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of millions of Americans. Despite having families and health concerns of their own, those on the front lines selflessly provided a lending hand during such unprecedented times. On August 3rd, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program (HWB). This $1.2 billion program will allow for the payment of bonuses to “recruit, retain, and reward” eligible health care and mental hygiene workers.
In terms of eligibility for funding under the HWB program, qualified employers will include those participating in Medicaid with at least one employee and will also cover other facilities, pharmacies, and school-based health centers licensed under the Public Health Law, Mental Hygiene Law, and Education Law, as well as certain programs funded by the Office of Mental Health (OMH). This is important because only employees working for a qualified employer for at least one vesting period will be eligible for these benefits. As defined by the Department of Health, vesting periods are consecutive six-months between October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2024.
Aside from having to work for a qualified employer, employees must also be considered “front line health care and mental hygiene practitioners, technicians, assistants, and aides that provide hands-on health or care services to individuals.” These individuals can be full-time, part-time, or temporary employees and must not exceed an annual salary of $125,000. It should be noted that those suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program during the vesting period will not be considered eligible. A complete list of all eligible worker titles is available on the Department of Health Website.
As mentioned above, qualified employees may also receive bonuses that can range up to a maximum of $3,000 over two vesting periods. For example, an employee who has worked at least 35 hours per week for one vesting period is eligible for a maximum $1,500 bonus. If that employee has worked at least 35 hours per week for an additional vesting period, the employee will be eligible for an additional $1,500 bonus. Employees should note that independently submitting a claim for a bonus is not permitted, this is the responsibility of the employer. It should be stressed that claims must be submitted within 30-days after a worker’s eligibility for a bonus has vested.
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