New Yorkers whose relatives died as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the state’s nursing homes have released harsh criticism of Governor Kathy Hochul over her decision not to include in her budget proposal a $4 billion compensation fund for victims of the pandemic’s deadly toll on nursing home residents. According to a report by the New York Post, a proposal for the fund was brought forward last year by state Assemblyman Ron Kim, but Hochul ultimately declined to include it in her $216.3 billion budget for the state.
As the Post described in February 2021, Kim proposed the “9/11-style” compensation fund on the heels of a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James that found state officials “had underreported the number of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 by some 50 percent by excluding those who died after being taken to hospitals.” The report also found that two-thirds of fatalities in New York nursing homes “occurred at facilities with inadequate staffing and many lacked proper infection control measures.” Kim suggested the fund would derive from “a special tax or fee” imposed on nursing homes; 50% would be directed toward compensation for victims, while the other 50% would be used for the purpose of “maintaining nursing home staffing.”
A spokesperson for Governor Hochul did not explain why the fund was not included in the budget, but stressed the actions her administration has already taken with regard to nursing homes. “On her first day in office, Governor Hochul released additional nursing home data, and every day since she has worked to deliver accountability, restore trust in government, and protect vulnerable New Yorkers,” the spokesperson told the Post. “In the Governor’s State of the State and Executive Budget, she proposed a number of new initiatives to support older New Yorkers, including investments in nursing homes to improve quality of care for residents, establishing clear certification criteria for ‘memory care,’ supporting innovative nursing home models like the Green House model, combating social isolation and abuse of older residents, and strengthening the long-term care ombudsman program.”
As the Post notes, the proposed budget also contains $1.2 billion for a “bonus program for nurses and other healthcare workers,” as part of a broader $10 billion package directed toward the state’s healthcare industry.
Assemblyman Kim criticized the state’s failure “to pay even a cent to families” of nursing home Covid-19 victims, contrasting the lack of compensation with a settlement of almost $53 million that New Jersey will pay relatives of 119 Covid-19 victims in that state’s nursing homes. “I think it’s embarrassing because New Jersey already settled with the veteran nursing home families and we should be leading the country in making the families and nursing homes whole,” Kim told the Post.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.