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  5. » Final Health Care Worker Bonus Claiming Period Starts April 1st

Final Health Care Worker Bonus Claiming Period Starts April 1st

The fifth and final vesting period of the Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus (HWB) Program ends in March. Employers will have from April 1st through May 1st to submit bonus claims for eligible workers employed from October 2023 through March 2024. Missed claims from prior periods may be submitted as well, while any overpayments must be returned to the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) using the dedicated bonus overpayment self-disclosure process.

The claiming portal is here, the bonus website is here, and the Questions and Answers (Q&A) document that serves as primary guidance for the program is here. Note that the Department of Health (DOH) posted updates to the document last week. Those Q&As flagged as having been updated are copied below.

Q. Are fire districts qualified employers?

A. Yes, fire districts and departments are municipalities and are considered Employers under the HWB program. If a Fire Fighter was a licensed EMT during the Vesting Period, and meets all other criteria, they would qualify for the bonus and the Employer would need to submit on their behalf. These Employers should determine if they have eligible employees and submit HWB claims as appropriate. If a fire district needs an SFS ID or sees an error message when attempting to register for the HWB Portal, please contact NYSWorkersBonus@health.ny.gov.

Q. Will the state reimburse employer or employee costs incurred for releasing HWB Program bonus payments such as FICA and payroll taxes?

A. Yes, employers will receive reimbursement for FICA and payroll taxes. In instances where the employee is a self-employed contractor, the employer should remit the bonus and the FICA to the employee. The employee will remit the FICA amount on their own behalf.

Q. What if an employee is exempt from FICA?

A. If a qualified employee is exempt from FICA, and the employer and the employee will not incur payroll costs or be required to remit FICA, the FICA amount received is an overpayment. Employers are required to report, return, and explain any overpaid HWB funds received to the Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG). For FICA overpayment specific forms, please contact OMIG’s Self-Disclosure Unit at selfdisclosures@omig.ny.gov or (518) 402-7030. Additional information, including directions on reporting and returning your overpayment can be found here: Office of the Medicaid Inspector General - Self Disclosure of HWB Program Payments.

Q. I am a qualified employer. May I keep any portion of the bonus payment?

A. No. A qualified employer shall not keep any portion of the bonus amount. Please note that the FICA portion is not due to the employee but must be remitted on behalf of the employee, except in instances where the employee is a self-employed contractor or when the Employee is exempt from FICA.

If the employee is a self-employed contractor, please see “Q. Will the state reimburse employer or employee costs incurred for releasing HWB Program bonus payments such as FICA and payroll taxes?” under section Tax QuestionsIf the employee is exempt from FICA please see “Q. What if an employee is exempt from FICA?” under section Tax Questions.

Q. I’m an employer who has diligently tried to remit an HWB bonus payment to an employee, but they are unreachable, and the payment is undeliverable. What do I do with the HWB payment and the corresponding FICA payment amount?

A. The HWB payment should be forwarded to OSC Unclaimed Funds: Reporting Unclaimed Funds to New York State | Office of the New York State Comptroller (ny.gov). The corresponding FICA payment is an overpayment and must be returned to OMIG. For more information on how employers should return HWB overpayments, including FICA payments, please see: Self-Disclosure of Health Care Worker Bonus Payments | Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (ny.gov)

Q. I’m an employee who was owed an HWB payment. I contacted my employer and they have indicated that my bonus payment was forwarded to OSC Unclaimed Funds. How do I request my bonus?

A. Individuals can claim monies held for them through the OSC Unclaimed Funds process. For more information please see: Unclaimed Funds | Office of the New York State Comptroller (ny.gov).

Q. Is an employer required to provide a bonus to an otherwise eligible employee who has been terminated for cause, whether prior to or after the deadline for the employer’s payment of the bonus?

A. Employers may be obligated to pay former employees who are eligible and vested while in their employment. If the employee was terminated after the employer’s payment of the bonus, the employer is still required to pay the bonus to the employee. Please see “Q. Are employers obligated to pay the HWB bonus to former employees?” under section Employee Separation.

Q. I am an employee and did not receive my health worker bonus, but believe I am eligible. What should I do?

A. First, please review these Q&A and the HWB webpage to see if you may be an eligible Employee. If you think you meet the criteria AND you worked for an entire vesting period, you may be entitled to a HWB bonus payment. Employers are responsible for determining which employees are eligible for the bonus. Therefore, you are encouraged to work with your employer to see if a resolution can be reached. Please note that your Employer has about 90 days after the end of your vesting period to pay you the bonus.

As such, you should first contact your employer and ask why you were not submitted for the bonus. If you believe your employer made a mistake in their determination of your eligibility, and the period for submitting claims is still open, please attempt to resolve the matter with your employer.

The Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) has developed a process for employees to submit allegations that their employer has not complied with the requirements of the Healthcare Worker Bonus program. If you cannot reach a resolution with your employer, and wish to file an allegation, you will be required to complete a form that includes (1) your title, (2) your period of employment and average hours worked during the applicable vesting period, (3) your earnings excluding bonuses and overtime, and other pertinent information. This process will be launched soon, please check back for updates.

Process to File an Allegation:

If you have questions related to submitting the Healthcare Worker Bonus Employee Inquiry Form, or related to a submitted inquiry, please send an email to bmfahwb@omig.ny.gov or call (518) 402-6231.