New York won't extend unemployment benefits to healthcare workers fired over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

  • New York will not extend unemployment benefits to most unvaccinated healthcare workers who are fired over the vaccine mandate.

  • The mandate goes into effect Monday, making it necessary for healthcare workers in New York to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • New York Governor Kathy Hochul is ready to call in the National Guard in case of shortages of healthcare workers caused by the mandate.

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Healthcare workers who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and are fired for failing to comply with a new state law will not be able to collect unemployment benefits unless they present a doctor-approved request for medical accommodation, according to the New York Department of Labor.

New York's new vaccine mandate, which goes into effect Monday, makes it necessary for workers in New York's hospitals and nursing homes to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Employees working at in home care, hospice, and adult care facilities need to be vaccinated by October 7. The mandate also applies to all out-of-state and contract medical staff who practice in New York.

"Workers in a healthcare facility, nursing home, or school who voluntarily quit or are terminated for refusing an employer-mandated vaccination" are not eligible for unemployment insurance because the employer has a "compelling interest" for its employees to be vaccinated, according to the New York Department of Labor website.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has said she is prepared to call in medically trained National Guard members and workers outside New York to aid with a potential shortage of healthcare workers once the mandate takes effect and some people are no longer eligible to come to work.

As of Wednesday, 84% of healthcare workers in New York were fully vaccinated against coronavirus. As of Thursday, 81% of staff at all adult care facilities and 77% of all staff at nursing home facilities in New York State were fully vaccinated.

The mandate comes at a time where many US hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages. With an influx of patients because of the Delta variant and fewer nurses due to burnout and difficult working conditions, many healthcare facilities are understaffed. However, a nursing shortage has been looming for years, only accelerated by the pandemic as fear of contracting COVID-19 worsened working conditions.

Hochul can declare a state of emergency to allow health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired, and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York.

"I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities," Hochul said in a statement. "I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care."

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