California nurses to get bonuses in Gavin Newsom budget

As part of an $18.1 billion inflation relief package, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state of California will give hospital and skilled nursing home workers a $1,000 bonus to thank them for their work to save countless lives amid the pandemic.

The package also encourages employers to match the bonus up to $500. The administration estimated that roughly 600,000 health care workers would receive the payment.

“Retaining essential workers in these settings is a priority of the administration and these payments are designed to help retain this critical workforce,” the governor stated in a budget proposal he released on Friday. “To recognize the tireless work of these workers and to support the retention of workers in an environment of high vacancies and turnover, the state will provide a baseline payment and will increase the payment up to $1,500 if employers commit to fully matching the additional amount.”

In a press conference, Finance Director Keely Bosler said the administration plans to include state employees who work in health care settings. Bosler didn’t specify how much money state health care workers would receive, but said the administration has made proposals to state employee unions.

“We are working through collective bargaining on payments that would also extend to those in similar settings in state facilities.”

Bosler skirted a question about whether any state employees outside state hospitals and health care settings — such as those who work in prisons or who cleaned offices during the pandemic — could also receive bonuses. She said the state so far has only proposed the bonuses for state health care workers.

The California Nurses Association, a union that represents roughly 100,000 registered nurses in the state, applauded the governor for recognizing “the significant sacrifices and contributions of health care workers.”

Union leaders said they will continue to push for adequate equipment, resources, guidance, and workplace standards for health care workers and for the infection control needed to keep public spaces safe now that the disease is endemic.

“While the fight for justice in the workplace continues, at this moment we are glad to see that the governor is paying tribute to the contributions of health care workers in this way,” said Sandy Reding, a Bakersfield registered nurse and one of the union’s presidents.

The inflation relief package is part of Newsom’s revised 2022-23 budget. The governor’s announcement provided no details on how the bonuses would be distributed, and there was no immediate response from the Newsom Administration.

Carmela Coyle, the chief executive officer of the California Hospital Association, said hospital leaders look forward “to more information about Gov. Newsom’s proposal to provide health care workers retention pay, as hospitals and other providers work to rebuild and support the ranks of these essential employees. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to strain hospitals’ ability to provide care, with nearly all grappling with a severe shortage of workers.

This story was originally published May 13, 2022 12:52 PM.

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Cathie Anderson covers health care for The Bee. Growing up, her blue-collar parents paid out of pocket for care. She joined The Bee in 2002, with roles including business columnist and features editor. She previously worked at papers including the Dallas Morning News, Detroit News and Austin American-Statesman.