Frontline nurses say they were promised but never paid bonuses

Nina Pineda Image
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Frontline nurses say they were promised but never paid bonuses
Billions of bonuses were promised but never paid to some of the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic: front line nurses. Nina Pineda has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A popular government program announced last summer in New York pledged more than a $1 billion in bonuses to help retain nurses and other health care professionals.

But now 7 On Your Side is hearing from a growing group of nurses who say instead of bonuses, they got nothing.

So Nina Pineda helped some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic get paid.

In March of 2020, hospitals were packed, patients were dying from a novel virus named COVID-19.

Laura Cruz, a registered respiratory therapist, and Marva Washington, a patient care technician, were both on the front lines at major New York hospitals. They were swamped in those early confusing days of the global pandemic.

"I love my job and love what I do," Washington said.

"This was rough, I've been doing this for 25 years, this was he hardest professionally we ever had to go through," Cruz said. "I would do it in a heartbeat again."

For their hard work, both qualified for a bonus set up by New York State -- the $1.2 billion Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus Program announced by Governor Kathy Hochul.

It awarded first responders up to $3,000 each for showing up during a consecutive 6-month period between October 1, 2021 through March of 2024.

But after applying by the August 3 deadline, Marva and Washington said they haven't received a nickel.

"It was frustrating, everyone directed to the state, but the state never answered," Cruz said.

"I called all the way to Albany, I called Washington, help us do something, we needed to advocate for the little people during COVID," Washington said.

Washington said she had to submit her paperwork twice.

"If I never get a penny, at least someone is advocating for hundreds of people, all over New York State," Washington said.

The former paramedic and military mom said she couldn't get any answers from the state health department or on the portal created for applications.

Both she and Cruz asked for help.

While the New York Department of Health would not talk specifics or acknowledge delays, it did admit they are developing a way for employees to process claims -- right now there is no way for eligible heath care workers to contact the state or get results on their own.

The Department of Health said first bonuses should have been paid out and the second bonuses are being processed now.

They added claims could take more than three months to process from the end of the eligibility period.

But within a few hours of 7 On Your Side's involvement, the health care workers got an email and Cruz and Washington got their money.

The nurses both got their two bonuses -- a total of $3,000 apiece.

Click here for more information on the bonus program.

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