When the state announced a special program in which healthcare employees will receive bonuses for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Empire State Association for Assisted Living (ESAAL) noticed that those who worked at privately run assisted living facilities will be ineligible. Now, they are calling on the state to include them in the program. James McPeak, Owner, McPeak’s Assisted Living, says he is taking up ESAAL’s stance, arguing that assisted living facility employees have worked just as hard as those employed at hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, and were absolutely essential in keeping many more of the elderly and infirm out of hospitals and alive throughout the pandemic.
On August 3, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the allocation of $1.3 billion for the program, which is being included in the 2023 state budget. The money will be used to recruit and retain certain healthcare and mental hygiene workers in an effort to increase the state’s healthcare workforce by 20% over a five-year period. Based on the number of hours worked during a consecutive six-month period, employees can earn bonuses of up to $3,000. Only those who earn less than $125,000 a year (not including other bonuses or overtime pay) are eligible.
Mr. McPeak says that, when the COVID-19 lockdown took place in 2020, the employees followed protocols that were mandated by the state Health Department and constantly communicated with each other throughout the pandemic while safeguarding the residents’ health and safety. Their efforts were recognized by ESAAL. “The staff at McPeak’s worked tirelessly and courageously throughout COVID,” he says. “This program epitomizes the disregard that our government ignores about affordable private-pay adult homes.”
Because McPeak’s is a private-pay facility, they do not accept Medicaid recipients, thereby making their employees ineligible for the bonus program. Mr. McPeak says he is always told that assisted living facilities like his are flush with cash, but that is not the case. “We are hurting just like most other small businesses,” he says. “We, and our residents, cannot sustain the increased cost of doing business in a state that continues to ignore us while providing relief to other healthcare settings. This is patently unfair.”