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Arkansas Gets Federal OK for Covid-19 Health Worker Bonuses

April 15, 2020, 9:24 PM

Arkansas is ready to begin giving bonuses to health-care workers in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities after getting federal approval to use Medicaid dollars for those payments during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday.

The state will pay up to $250 per week for full-time direct-care workers in long-term care facilities or $500 per week in facilities with residents who have tested positive for Covid-19. So far, 28 nursing homes in the state have positive cases of the virus. The workers include nurses, nursing aides, home-health aides, assisted-living staff, hospice care workers, and respiratory therapists.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved the payments as part of a waiver request from the state. Other parts of the request, including funds for hospitals to pay for facility upgrades related to the coronavirus, are pending, the governor said.

“Not only will these funds help ensure continuity of care, the extra pay will alleviate some of the financial stress for the caregivers, who are selflessly serving in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in private homes at increased risk to their own health,” Hutchinson (R) said in a written statement. The state will coordinate with the facilities on when the bonuses will appear in paychecks.

Photographer: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

The bonuses are expected to cost about $55 million, state Medicaid spokeswoman Amy Webb said.

The state also is considering using funds available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to pay bonuses to direct-care workers in hospitals and non-direct-care workers, such as janitors and laundry staff, in hospitals and long-term care facilities, Hutchinson said.

Those bonuses would cost the state about $50 million and would come from a pool of $1.25 billion Arkansas expects to receive through the CARES Act to help pay for its broad coronavirus response, the governor said.

The two bonus programs combined would cover about 70,000 workers, said Cindy Gillespie, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

The bonuses will run retroactively from April 5 through May 30, with a potential 30-day extension if the state still has more than 1,000 coronavirus cases at the end of May, Hutchinson said. Bonuses won’t exceed the duration of the national health state of emergency, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Brent Bierman at bbierman@bloomberglaw.com

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