‘We need you in Kansas’: Officials finally approve rules for $50 million nurse bonus program

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Officials formally approved Friday the fine details of a $50 million program providing bonuses to nurses and other hospital staff, a bid to retain workers amid the rise of COVID-19 cases in Kansas.

Officials formally approved Friday the fine details of a $50 million program providing bonuses to nurses and other hospital staff, a bid to retain workers amid the rise of COVID-19 cases in Kansas.

The funds were officially allocated last week, but lawmakers charged with appropriating the state's federal COVID-19 aid, which is being used to underwrite the program, grew bogged down on what the program's rules.

Controversially, Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, pushed for hospitals with a vaccine mandate to be ruled ineligible for the funds, a position which was rejected by the panel of officials on the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas executive committee earlier this week.

Masterson acknowledged defeat Friday but successfully pushed for hospitals to report their COVID-19 policies to the state as part of paperwork outlining how the funds are being used.

"My only fear is we’re going to give some of them premium pay and we’re going to give some of them a pink slip," Masterson said.

The program will give hospitals the ability to either offer up to $13-per-hour or premium pay for frontline workers or create their own bonus structure, provided the funds are deemed an allowable use under the American Rescue Plan Act.

It comes as Kansas' hospitals remain full with COVID-19 patients. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported a rise of 4,302 cases since Wednesday, with an increase of 73 deaths and 100 hospitalizations.

"We want the message to be loud and clear: We need you in Kansas," Jon Rolph, a Wichita restaurant owner and SPARK committee member, said in a direct appeal to hospital staff.

Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at abahl@gannett.com or by phone at 443-979-6100.