Officials urge state to support nursing homes if minimum wage reaches $15

A $15 minimum wage could force New York nursing homes and other providers to close, and officials are asking the state for help.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2016-2017 budget currently does not include funds to help nursing homes, hospitals and home health companies pay workers should the wage hike pass, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., told a legislative hearing on Monday.

"I've had nursing home operators come to me and say if this $15 an hour passes there's no question we will have to close our nursing home," state Sen. Catharine Young (R) said during the hearing.

Zucker said the state is aware of the potentially lethal effects the wage hike could have, and is planning to tackle the issue of funding the wage raise as budget negotiations go forward.

Advocates for the hike say increasing wages could help alleviate poverty among nursing home workers, decrease worker turnover and improve care for residents.

Cuomo's current budget proposal includes funding for raising the wages of state workers and those in the State University of New York system, but not for healthcare providers who receive reimbursement from the state's Medicaid program, the Albany Business Review reports.

Raising the minimum wage is estimated to cost the state around $3 billion. The nursing home industry would have to divert $600 million to salaries to meet the requirement.

Cuomo's proposal would raise the minimum wage from $9 an hour to $15 for all workers in the state. In New York City, workers would see the increase by Dec. 31, 2018; wages for the rest of the state would increase in mid-2021.