BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Hospitals across the state are facing a significant staffing shortage, and it’s causing the state to take action. Governor Kathy Hochul announced the launch of the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program.

“It’s not just a crisis for these workers, it’s a crisis for all of us who really need that healthcare as well,” Hochul said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Hospitals throughout the state are struggling to find enough workers to care for their patients.

“Right now, we have 9,300 openings for healthcare nurses, healthcare workers across the state, particularly registered nurses and it’s really important and recruit the next generation of workers,” Hochul said.

The program includes $1.3 billion allocated for retention bonuses for eligible health care and mental hygiene workers through an online portal.

Who’s eligible?

  • Workers making $125,000 annually or less (excluding bonuses/overtime pay)
  • Must be in position for at least six months
  • Full-time, part-time or temporary employees eligible

“Recruitment and retention is our number one issue at Catholic Health, as I’m sure it is at other places, said William Pryor, who’s the Executive VP Chief Administer at Catholic Health. “I know it took a lot of effort for her to do this with the legislature but we are super excited about it and it will help our frontline employees to think about what happened during the pandemic, this will help.”

News 4 caught up with Trocaire College and they say although the scholarships don’t apply to them because they’re a private institution, it will help people at public universities and colleges get on the track to a career in healthcare.

“There’s very few students who out there who are not looking for some help paying for higher education, as we know, higher education costs are substantial. Trocaire has worked vey hard to keep our tuition at a low rate, but it’s still, for individuals it is still a stretch and there’s tuition to pay for, if students go away for school there’s room and board and books and uniforms and all of that,” said Jackie Matheny, who’s the president for external affairs at Trocaire College.

Trocaire does have a partnership with Lackawanna Schools and Catholic Health for career exploration and courses. The college also has a scholarship program through Roswell Park

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter from Buffalo, N.Y. who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.

(WSYR-TV) – Enacted in the 2023 New York State Budget, the bonuses are a key initiative in Governor Hochul’s goal to increase the health care workforce by 20% over the next five years.

Bonuses for employees will be determined by specific “vesting periods,” or hours worked during a consecutive six-month period between October 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024.   

A qualified employee can receive up to a maximum of $3,000 in total bonus payments over two vesting periods.

Qualified employees who work:  

  • At least 20 hours but no more than 30 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $500
  • At least 30 hours but no more than 35 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $1,000
  • At least 35 hours per week are eligible for a bonus of $1,500

Throughout the pandemic, including the early days when many were hunkered down at home, our health care workers and first responders have shown up day after day to keep New Yorkers healthy and save lives. Health care workers are the foundation of our medical system, and we need to acknowledge the sacrifices they have made to bring us through these challenging times. Our bonus program is about more than just thanks, this is an investment in health care and with it we will retain, rebuild, and grow our health care workforce and ensure we deliver the highest quality care for New Yorkers.

GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL, (D) NEW YORK

Employees can not receive bonuses if they have ever been suspended or excluded from the Medicaid program.

Workers must be enrolled in the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program by their employer.

Employers are responsible for awarding funds no later than 30 days after a worker’s eligibility for a bonus has been approved.

Eligible employers can submit employees who qualify for HWB payments by creating an account on the online HWB portal.

For more information on the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus program, click here.