California Touts Facebook Donation in Launching $500 Stipend Program for Skilled Nursing Staff

The state of California this week announced a program that will provide $500 stipends for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) who work in the skilled nursing setting, funded primarily by a $25 million donation from social networking giant Facebook.

Frontline caregivers who qualify under the “Skilled Nursing Facility Hero Awards” program can receive a one-time, $500 payment from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). Only the first 50,000 people who apply for the grants online will receive the cash, according to a statement from OSHPD acting director Marko Mijic.

“Today we salute the frontline health care workers who are taking care of our state’s most vulnerable residents in response to COVID-19,” Mijic said in the statement. “To show our appreciation for those efforts, the state of California and our partners at Facebook are providing $500 stipends to help with the financial responsibilities they face as they work to provide care for our older Californians, as well as their own families.”

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The program supplements other steps that Golden State officials have taken to support caregivers in long-term settings, including retraining efforts and the provision of hotel rooms for health workers who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose total net worth sits somewhere around $65 billion to $70 billion, thanked California’s nursing home employees in the statement.

“We’re grateful for all the incredible work California’s critical staff in nursing facilities are doing to save lives and help combat COVID-19,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “They’re on the front lines every day selflessly helping others, and we hope these stipends will help cover some of their expenses so they can focus on their critical work.”

California isn’t the only state that has taken steps to increase nursing home staff pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit nursing homes particularly hard: Massachusetts implemented a 25% pay raise for temporary nursing home agency staffers, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday, after lobbying from companies such as the Quincy, Mass.-based IntelyCare.

Massachusetts law regulates the hourly rates that temporary nursing home staffers can be paid to prevent price-gouging, according to the Globe. The 25% pay bump is designed to help providers in the Bay State fill a growing number of care gaps as workers become ill or start to fear contracting the virus; officials have also set aside funds that operators can use to boost the pay of their permanent staffers.

“We are failing because we can’t pay our workers enough,” IntelyCare CEO David Coppins told the Globe. “I get directors of nursing and administrators calling us and begging us for help.”