When the Healthcare Worker Bonus (HWB) program was unveiled in August, educational organizations were included in the list of eligible employers, but with little clarification as to which ones or who would be covered. At the end of August, a memo was distributed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) confirming that nonpublic schools, charter schools, approved preschool special education programs, school districts, and boards of cooperative educational services were all included and reiterated that the education portion of the bonus program will roll-out in October 2022.
As of October 6th the NYS DOH has not provided any additional insight other than that educational providers need to file for the 1st (October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022) and 2nd (April 1, 2022 through September 30, 2022) vesting periods before the end of October (October 31, 2022). As a result, we are now left trying to figure this out without a clear road map. What makes this difficult is that the Healthcare Worker Bonus program was designed, as the name implies, for healthcare workers, and we need to apply these regulations, which are often unclear to begin with, to an educational model.
Some things are certain:
1) The program is mandatory for eligible employers … so you must do it; and there are penalties for getting it wrong.
2) Employees earning an annual base pay of $125,000 or more are not eligible – however please note that employees do need to be tested by vesting period as if an employee makes less than the prorated amount per period ($62,500) they would be eligible, even if over $125,000 annually.
3) You need to get employees to complete an attestation before you can provide them with a bonus (See here for copy of attestation)
4) Bonuses are payable based upon average weekly hours worked during a vesting period (overtime is excluded but paid time off and FMLA time is included):
a. 20 to 30 average hours per week $ 500 bonus
b. 30 to 35 average hours per week $1,000 bonus
c. 35 or more average hours per week $1,500 bonus
5) Employees are only entitled to 2 bonuses from an employer up to a maximum of $3,000 in total from the program.
6) An employee must work the entire 26 weeks of the vesting period. If they do not, they are not eligible as continuous employment is required.
7) If an employee leaves on their own accord prior to the date the bonus needs to be paid, they are not entitled to the bonus; however if they work the entire vesting period and you terminate them, they are entitled to the bonus.
8) The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) will be performing audits of the program.
Some things are not as clear, so providers need to interpret and document how we came to our conclusions:
1) What employees are eligible for the program:
a. The program was designed for healthcare and mental hygiene workers and to be eligible, employers need to bill Medicaid. So, in evaluating which employees are eligible we believe the conservative approach is to only include:
i. Therapists (PT, OT, ST)
ii. Therapy Assistants
iv. Social Workers
v. Psychologists and Psychiatrists
vii. Clinical Coordinators
viii. Potentially Guidance Counselors and Behavioral Intervention Specialists that have one of the above licenses
ix. NYSED has made it clear that teachers and teacher assistants are not eligible for the bonus
b. This is open to both employees, independent contractors and “permanent contract staff”. It is unclear how permanent contract staff is defined and whether this was a way to describe a PEO arrangement (although the FAQ states PEO’s and other third-parties). If you are going to include “outside contractors” make sure they are ones that provided services consistently throughout the 26-week vesting period and clearly document your thought process in your decision.
2) As outlined above, employees with a base pay of $125,000 or more are not eligible for the bonus (though they may be if they earn under $62,500 in a given vesting period). We know that base salary excludes bonuses and overtime pay, but there is no discussion regarding stipends. The FAQ’s do state that shift differentials are included in base pay, so we would assume, that stipends would likewise be included.
We were hoping that more clarity on how to apply the HWB regulations to educational facilities would have been released, but unfortunately you will need to interpret this as best you can. We will be providing two separate webinars on October 11, 2022 – one for Education Providers and another for Early Intervention Providers – to review the regulations and allow educational facilities to ask questions. This will be a follow-up/update to the webinar we did in August (view here) which provides a comprehensive summary of the program. These regulations are not clear and no updates have been provided specific to educational facilities, so once again, please document all your decisions.
Please stay connected with us for any updates as they occur.
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Kenneth R. Cerini, CPA, CFP, FABFA
Ken is the Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP and is the executive responsible for the administration of our not-for-profit and educational provider practice groups. In addition to his extensive audit experience, Ken has been directly involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State in such areas as cost reporting, financial analysis, Medicaid compliance, government audit representation, rate maximization, board training, budgeting and forecasting, and more.