(TRENTON) – Aiming to help nursing homes improve their COVID-19 response by providing wage increases to frontline certified nurse aides (CNAs) and dedicating funding to infection control efforts, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson and Gordon Johnson was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday. The measure received final legislative approval in August, passing the Assembly 67-8-3 and Senate 37-0.
The new law (formerly bill A-4547) increases the Medicaid reimbursement rate for Class I, Class II and Class III nursing facilities by ten percent for the next fiscal year from October 1 to June 30. The new Medicaid funding totals $130 million, of which $62 million will come from state funding and $68 million from federal funding.
Of the $130 million, $78 million must be used by nursing homes to increase wages for CNAs. On average, this will support a 20 percent hourly wage increase. The remaining $52 million will assist facilities in supporting COVID-19-related infection control protocols, including personal protective equipment, cleaning and staffing needs, among others.
Facilities which fail to meet certain requirements specified by the New Jersey Department of Health may be subject to forfeiture of funding.
Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) released the following statements:
Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle: “Certified nurse aides in long-term care centers are on the COVID-19 front lines day in and day out. They dedicate their lives to caring for our most vulnerable, and now they put their health at risk every day they’re on the job. If there’s ever a time to enhance wages for our severely underpaid and overworked nurses aides, it’s now.”
Assemblyman Benson: “Nursing homes are not only battling a public health emergency; many are also facing a fiscal emergency. Without the resources to adequately pay nursing staff or enforce infection control measures, it will become even more difficult to retain nurses and keep residents and staff safe. By increasing Medicaid reimbursements, we will provide financial relief to nursing homes so that they may improve their COVID-19 response and better care for residents.”
Assemblyman Johnson: “As we look to a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, we must make sure long-term care facilities have the resources needed to mitigate the spread of the virus. This includes, perhaps most importantly, the heroic CNAs who care for elderly and disabled residents in long-term care facilities and often work multiple shifts at several facilities to make ends meet. Increased wages will mean current CNAs won’t have to stretch themselves thin financially, as well as help to attract new staff hires, which in turn will improve quality of care for residents.”