CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The largest in state history, Governor Kathy Hochul announces a massive $10 billion investment in the state’s healthcare industry. Much of the money will go towards wages and even retention bonuses.

Across New York State, many in healthcare are applauding the governor’s investment in the struggling but critical healthcare industry, including Gary Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Iroquois Healthcare Association in Clifton Park. “So there are a lot of different factors going on, but this helps,” Fitzgerald says, “some of these things the governor talked about: loan forgiveness, scholarships, expansions of doctors and nurses across New York, all these things will help.” 

In her plan, the governor hopes to increase the state’s healthcare industry by around 20% over a 5-year period. In the $10 billion investment is:

  • $2 billion to support healthcare wages
  • $2 billion to support healthcare and mental hygiene worker retention bonuses, with up to $3,000 bonuses going to full-time workers who remain in their positions for one year, and pro-rated bonuses for those working fewer hours
  • $500 million for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to help raise wages for human services workers
  • $2 billion for healthcare capital infrastructure and improved lab capacity
  • Other investments in workforce and healthcare access and delivery

Also included in the investment in the healthcare industry is the opportunity for free tuition and stipends for healthcare workers who practice in New York State after graduation. In a press release, “Governor Hochul will provide direct financial support for the education of healthcare professionals, provided that they work in New York State for a specified period after obtaining their credentials. The plan will offer free tuition, cover instructional costs for high-demand health occupations and provide stipends to make up for lost income while in school. It would also provide for wraparound services such as childcare or transportation support to eliminate obstacles that stand in the way of New Yorkers’ training for healthcare professions.

Gary Fitzgerald says the burnout many in the healthcare industry are feeling now is nothing new, however; the pandemic has enhanced the issue and the need for a solution. “We had shortages then (prior to the pandemic), the shortages and vacancy rates have almost doubled since the pandemic for a lot of different reasons. I think just the under-appreciation for the state’s healthcare workforce in hospitals and nursing homes and other settings, this governor for the first time has realized there needs to be a serious investment in that workforce.” 

There are some who are concerned about the state using taxpayer funds to assist the healthcare industry. According to Bill Hammond, a senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center, “hospitals and many other healthcare providers are large money-making businesses…Taxpayers should not be the first resort for balancing their budgets or financing their labor contracts.”