Sunday, December 5, 2021

Relief funds are recommended for the recruitment of healthcare professionals

ELENA, INSTALLATION. (NWN) – A commission set up to provide federal funding for COVID-19 aid to help stabilize Montana’s economy Wednesday recommended that the governor set aside $ 4 million to help hire new health workers to the state. But attendees turned down an offer to spend $ 13 million on withholding bonuses for existing hospital workers.

The healthcare recruitment program will allow healthcare providers to cover up to $ 12,500 of relocation costs for new hires, as well as up to $ 4,300 in taxes on this payment, said Scott Mendenhall, program director for the new US Rescue Plan Act. …

“We have received excellent feedback from healthcare employers who said it would be very helpful and necessary to possibly reduce some of our concerns in this particular industry,” Mendenhall said.

The program may recruit 238 more healthcare workers in the state, which has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases since mid-July. New workers will have to stay at their jobs in Montana for at least a year, or they will have to get their money back, Mendenhall said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, a committee member, argues that the proposal overlooks members of the existing medical staff, who are stressed and frustrated to see traveling workers get more than they get.

Abbott has proposed recommending to Greg Janforte that the state allocate $ 13 million in federal aid for inpatient hospital employee benefits. She advocated investing in healthcare workers who continued to work during the pandemic.

She noted that Kansas has pledged $ 50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help hospitals retain frontline workers.

The commission rejected Abbott’s offer.

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Commissioners are also recommending that the governor spend $ 2.3 million in aid to respond to the rise in crime in Billings since the start of the pandemic. Of this, $ 1.5 million will go to the Public Defender’s Office to clear the backlog of cases, and another $ 850,000 will go to the State Criminal Investigation Department to hire additional investigators. The City of Billings, along with Yellowstone County, have agreed to spend $ 1 million each for the event.

Scott Eichner, the state’s human resources administrator, told the commission that the Department of Labor would need less than one-third of the $ 15 million that Gianforte had set aside for return-to-work bonuses.

To date, 1,917 applications have been approved and $ 2.3 million paid in bonuses. People who received unemployment benefits in early May must start a new job by October 31st and still be eligible for the program. New employees must work four weeks to receive the $ 1,200 bonus.

The money for the recruitment of health workers will come from an estimated $ 10 million in return-to-work bonuses that will be returned to the Advisory Commission on Economic Transformation and Stabilization and Human Development. Any amount in excess of approximately $ 4.35 million that goes towards recruiting healthcare workers and advertising reimbursement of relocation costs will go to the Business Innovation Program.

The legislature has allocated $ 150 million for business innovation. The state recently received permission to use some of the money for a revolving small business loan fund, said budget director Ryan Osmundson, and will make a proposal to the committee at an upcoming meeting.

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