Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonuses

Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonuses

KEEPING YOU INFORMED…

We are writing to advise you that the State’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes funding for bonuses to be provided to certain healthcare and mental hygiene workers to recruit, retain and reward these workers for their service.

The legislation requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with a bonus of up to $1,500 per employee for each of two “vesting periods” (for a maximum total bonus of $3,000 per employee). The State has not yet published the dates for these vesting periods, which will be two six-month periods between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2024. The bonus amount depends on the employee’s average number of hours worked per week during a vesting period. The State will also publish a form and procedures for employers to use to track employee work hours and bonus eligibility. Until the form and procedures are published, you do not have to make any bonus payments pursuant to this legislation.

The key provisions of this new legislation are outlined below.

Covered Employees

An employee is eligible for the bonus if the employee:

(1) is a front line health care or mental hygiene practitioner, technician, assistant or aide who provides “hands on health or care services to individuals”;

(2) works in an eligible job title; and

(3) earns a base yearly salary of $125,000 or less, not including bonuses or overtime pay, during the vesting period.
An individual who meets these requirements is considered a covered employee regardless of whether the individual is employed on a full-time or part-time basis, is salaried, hourly or employed on a temporary basis, or works as an independent contractor.

The law includes an extensive list of eligible job titles, which is provided at the end of this memorandum. This list includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, social workers, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. Additional titles may be added to the list with the approval of the State’s Director of the Budget.

The new law makes the employer responsible for determining employee eligibility and requires the employer to maintain and make available to the State, upon request, all records, data and information relied upon in making this determination.

Covered Employers

The following employers are covered by the new legislation:

(1) a county, city, town or village

(2) a school district, BOCES, public or nonpublic school, charter school or an approved preschool program for students with disabilities

(3) an institution of higher learning

(4) a program funded by the Office of Mental Health, Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, or the Office for the Aging

(5) a county health district; part-county health district; or a city, town, village or consolidated health district with a separate board of health

(6) a provider that participates in the Medicaid program including, but not limited to, the following:[1]

a. school based health centers

b. hospitals, emergency medical services, home care services and hospice

c. residential care programs for adults and children

d. pharmacies

e. programs that participate in the medical assistance program and are funded by the Office of Mental Health, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports or the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities

Tracking and Submission of Reimbursement Claims

The State will develop and issue forms and procedures for employers to use to identify the number of hours employees worked during each vesting period and to reimburse the employers for the bonus payments. As of the date of this memorandum, the State has not yet published these forms or procedures.

Once the State has published these forms and procedures, a covered employer must:

(1) track the number of hours that eligible employees work during the vesting period and, as applicable, the number of patients served by the employer who are eligible for Medicaid; and

(2) submit claims for reimbursement of employee bonus payments.

A covered employer will be required to enroll in the State’s system to claim bonus payments once the system is made available to the public. Employers must maintain contemporaneous records of all tracking and claims-related information and documents needed to substantiate bonus reimbursement requests for at least six years and must furnish these records upon request to the State or relevant federal agency.

Payment of Bonuses

After the State issues a vesting schedule, employers must pay bonuses to covered employees pursuant to that schedule based on the number of hours worked during the vesting period. An employee may receive a bonus of up to $1,500 for each of up to two vesting periods per employer, for a total of up to $3,000 across all employers.

As set forth in the chart below, the bonus amount for each of the two vesting period depends on the average number of hours worked per week during the vesting period. Hours worked include an employee’s use of accruals or other leave, including sick, vacation or time used pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Weekly Average of Hours Worked                   Bonus Payment

20-29                                                        $500
30-34                                                     $1,000
35 or more                                            $1,500

An employer must submit bonus reimbursement claims within 30 days after an employee’s eligibility for a bonus vests in accordance with the State’s schedule (as stated above, the State has not yet published this schedule). The employer must then provide the bonus to the eligible employee within 30 days of its receipt of the State’s payment.[2]

Conclusion

We will let you know once the State publishes the dates for the two vesting periods and the form and procedures to track employee work hours and bonus eligibility. We will also provide you with updates regarding the issuance of any State guidance or other announcements. In the meantime, you do not need to make any bonus payments pursuant to this legislation.

If you have any questions regarding this new legislation, please contact Lauren Schnitzer, Michelle Mahabirsingh or one of our other attorneys at 631-694-2300.

THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.

[1] A provider is not a “covered employer” unless at least 20% of the provider’s patients or persons served are eligible for Medicaid (if the provider is subject to a certificate of need process as a condition of State licensure or approval, however, the provider is considered a “covered employer” regardless of whether at least 20% of its patients or persons served are eligible for Medicaid).

[2] An employee who has been suspended or excluded under the State’s Medicaid program during the vesting period and at the time that the employer submits a claim is not entitled to a bonus payment.

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