November 11, 2022 Updates Regarding Fire Districts and Submitting Claims for the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus (“HWB”) Program
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
The New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) recently announced that it will keep the online portal open for all employers to submit bonus claims for Vesting Periods 1 and 2 until November 30, 2022 (because several employers encountered technical issues submitting claims by the October 31 deadline). All claims filed after October 31 and through November 30 will be considered “late” for filing purposes. The State advises that employers should document and retain information regarding the reasons for any late submissions so that this information can be provided to the State in the event of an audit or investigation concerning the HWB Program.
In addition, as we have advised our school clients, education-sector employers are authorized to submit bonus claims for Vesting Period 2 with their claims for Vesting Period 3. The online portal will be open for Vesting Period 3 bonus claims, along with any education-sector Vesting Period 2 bonus claims, from April 1, 2023 through May 1, 2023.
The State recently updated its FAQ (after the original October 31 deadline had passed) to provide that fire districts are qualified employers. Thus, fire districts must determine whether they have any eligible employees for Vesting Periods 1 and 2 and submit bonus claims for those employees by November 30, 2022, if they have not already done so. The FAQ provides that a fire district in need of an identification number (called a “SFS ID”), which is required to sign into the online portal, email NYSWorkersBonus@health.ny.gov.
A summary of the additional key points included in the updated FAQ is provided below.
- “Guidance is forthcoming” regarding how an employer can amend a bonus claim after discovering that it claimed a bonus amount lower than it should have for an employee.
- The State is developing procedures for an employer to follow in the event that the employer suspects that the State has made a mistake in an employee’s bonus amount (for example, an overpayment).
- As we have previously opined, the FAQ confirms that school guidance counselors are not eligible for the bonus.
- The FAQ previously stated that bonus payments should not be reduced for any wage garnishment liabilities. The updated FAQ retracts that statement. Now, the FAQ provides that employers must offset bonus payments in compliance with any legally enforceable order against an employee’s wages.
- There is no appeals process for an employee whose bonus amount was reduced by the State (that is, where an employer submitted a bonus claim for an employee in a certain amount and the State provided payment to the employer in an amount that is lower than the employer’s submitted amount). Employers with questions about the bonus payments should submit those questions directly to the State. The FAQ also provides that the online portal will notify employers when payment information is available and that the State will offer employers an employee-level remittance. The State will provide employers with the reasons for any reduced or rejected bonus amounts.
- Employers must issue bonus payments to their eligible employees within 30 days of their receipt of the bonus amounts from the State. Employers may release the bonus payments as separate checks. If the bonus payment is provided within an employee’s regular paycheck, the bonus payment amount must be identifiable to the employee and able to be verified in an audit.
Information regarding the HWB Program, including the FAQ and a link to the online portal, is available at: https://health.ny.gov/health_care/medicaid/providers/hwb_program/index.htm
If you have technical issues signing into the online portal or submitting bonus claims, you can call the HWB Call Center at (866) 682-0077 or email NYSWorkersBonus@health.ny.gov. If you have any other questions regarding the HWB Program, you can 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.
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