A $10,000 “hero pay” bonus bill failed in the Assembly on Thursday due to massive legislative opposition against the proposed legislation.
Assembly Bill 650, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), would have forced hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities, without assistance from the state or other governmental entities, to pay all medical professionals an additional $10,000 in 2022, with part time medical professionals receiving proportional bonuses. The bill, also known as the Health Care Workers Recognition and Retention Act, laid out a quarterly schedule in 2022 to pay the “hazard pay retention bonuses” for each covered worker.
AB 650 made it clear that the bonuses were not to be part of their standard salary, and that it would have been illegal to fire or layoff such an employee in order to avoid paying the bonus. If healthcare facilities had previously paid out hazard pay bonuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, then that amount would have been deducted from the received bonus in 2022.
Due to intense backlash from health care facilities and many lawmakers, AB 650 was recently amended to allow health care facilities to receive exemptions from paying if they were in no financial position to do so. Those facilities not able to pay would have then been directed to apply for grant money from a Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Fund or other fund created by the Legislature for the purpose of providing hazard pay or bonuses to health care workers, essentially having the state pay the bonuses should the health care facility be unable to do so.
Assemblyman Muratsuchi is adamant that he wrote AB 650 as a way to honor font-line healthcare workers who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic and risked their lives to treat patients with the virus, as well as a way to retain healthcare workers to remain at their jobs post-pandemic.
“Last year, everyone was talking about thanking our front-line healthcare workers, and we all recognized on a daily basis watching the news how they were risking their lives and their loved ones lives by going into combat day in and day out,” Muratsuchi said earlier this month. “So, I think there is wide recognition that our healthcare workers deserve hero pay.”
Earlier in April, the Assemblyman also said, “We need to go beyond just saying thank you to our frontline workers. Every time they have gone to work during this pandemic health care workers have known they are entering a dangerous workplace and have put themselves and their families at risk to care for others during this crisis. They have weathered staffing shortages and worked long hours with few breaks in order to fight this disease and save lives. This bill will provide substantial, tangible proof to health care workers that we recognize their sacrifice and value essential work to care for our families and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.”