On August 3, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the implementation of New York’s Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus Program (the Bonus Program). The Bonus Program, passed as part of the State budget, amends New York Social Services Law by requiring qualified employers to pay up to $3,000 in bonuses to certain health care and mental hygiene workers over statutory vesting periods. This post details the eligibility, qualifications, and employer obligations under the Bonus Program.
Which employers and employees are subject to the Bonus Program?
A qualified employer is an employer with at least one employee that either: (i) bills under the state Medicaid plan; (ii) bills under the home or community-based services waiver; or (iii) bills for Medicaid through a managed care organization or managed long term care plan. Providers, facilities, pharmacies, and school-based health centers licensed under the New York Public Health, Mental Hygiene, and Education Laws, as well as certain state agency funded programs, fall within this definition.
“Front-line” health care and mental hygiene workers who “provide hands-on health or care services to individuals” are eligible to receive the bonus. This includes full-time and part-time employees and independent contractors who are physically present in New York. To qualify for a bonus under the program, an employee must also: (i) earn less than $125,000 annually; (ii) remain employed by a qualified employer for the duration of at least one vesting period (which the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has established is six months); (iii) have a title included on the list of Eligible Worker Titles published by the NYSDOH; and (iv) not have been suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program during the vesting period.
The NYSDOH further clarified in a Town hall meeting that employees who work remotely, but serve in patient-facing roles such as telehealth nurses and social workers, are also considered eligible employees, provided that they meet the criteria outlined above.