New York state has reached a conceptual agreement on a record $220 billion budget and, as expected, major plans are included that could set the tone for the state’s battered health care industry for years to come.
Among them, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday:
• $1.2 billion for frontline health care worker bonuses.
• A total of “nearly $7.4 billion to support a $3 wage increase for home health care aides, and that’s just the beginning,” Hochul said. While she didn’t specify, it would presumably be a $3 an hour increase, which would bring a home care worker making minimum wage in Buffalo to $16.20 an hour. Home care advocates had been calling for 150% of the regional minimum wage, which would have meant $19.80 per hour in the Buffalo Niagara region.
• And $2.4 billion to improve the state’s health care infrastructure.
Further details of those proposals weren’t immediately available, and the budget bill pertaining to health care had not yet been released as of 6 p.m. Thursday.
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The initiatives, Hochul said, are geared toward bolstering the state’s exhausted health care workforce, which continues to lose employees to retirement, resignations or higher-paid travel positions.
“We’ve lost a lot of them,” she said. “We cannot continue to have the health care services that New Yorkers deserve under these circumstances. So to stop the hemorrhaging of health care workers, let’s start by stop talking about, ‘We owe them a debt of gratitude,’ and pay them some of that debt.”
Hochul said the initiatives, and more to be announced, fit into her goal of growing the state’s health care workforce by 20% over the next five years.
George Gresham, president of major labor union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said in a statement that the budget includes a “meaningful pay raise for frontline home care workers and increased funding for safety net hospitals.”
“These priorities are necessary to strengthen a health care system and caregiver workforce that has been stretched to its limit in recent years,” he said.