Taxypayer-funded retention bonuses are indeed coming to California’s frontline health care workers after Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders reached a budget deal Monday setting aside money to thank medical professionals who have worked through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Full-time workers stand to get the biggest potential payments, up to $1,500: up to $1,000 from the state of California and up to $500 in a match from their employers, according to the text of Assembly Bill 184.
Part-time workers will get as much as $1,250, a maximum of $750 of which comes from the state and $500 from their employers.
Physicians will receive up to $1,000 from the state. Managers and supervisors are ineligible for the payouts.
The bonuses will go not only to workers at general acute-care hospitals, government-operated hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and physician practice groups but also to employees at acute psychiatric hospitals, many nonprofit clinics, hospital outpatient clinics, and at any heath facility owned or operated by the state of California or any state department.
“The Legislature finds and declares that stability in the California health care workforce will further its efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and address other public health issues that face Californians,” legislators wrote in laying out their rationale for the bonuses. “Providing California health care workers in 24-hour-care facilities with retention payments … will advance California’s effort to promote stability and retention in California’s health care workforce.”
Legislators noted that the size of the individual payments could drop, depending on how many people take part in the bonus program. They have set aside $1.3 billion for the purpose, and they also provided instructions for a dispute process if physicians or workers feel they have been shortchanged, first requiring them to appeal to their employers before seeking assistance from state agencies or the courts.
Any employer that willfully withholds bonuses is liable to the employees for the unpaid amount and interest, and they may have to pay the employees’ legal fees.
Anthony Cava, a spokesperson for the Department of Health Care Services, said the agency is still working out the operation details of this effort. He could not answer questions about when the money would be distributed.
Full-time employees must have worked at least 400 hours in person and part-time workers at least 100 hours at a facility over a 91-day period in 2022. The state department will determine that employment window after the legislation is enacted.
Employers must pay out funds within 60 days of receiving them and cannot use the funds to cover or replace other payments owed to employees or physicians.
Employers and physician organizations have to report names, addresses and other information for those receiving the payments. The measures are intended to ensure that neither employees nor doctors receive more than one retention bonus, even though they may work at more than one eligible facility.