An increase in funding from the state's health care program for low-income New Yorkers is needed in order to alleviate a severe staffing shortage, a consortium of non-profit facilities and labor unions on Monday urged. 

The groups, including the powerful health care workers union 1199SEIU and Leading Age New York, which represents non-profit nursing homes, in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul called for a 20% hike in Medicaid rates for nursing homes in the coming state budget. 

At issue has been new staffing requirements combined with a shortage that has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nursing homes in New York are required to maintain average staffing hours equal to three-and-a-half hours of care per resident per day. Health care networks and facilities across New York have struggled to retain and recruit staff in recent years. 

Nursing homes must also spend at least 70% of their revenue on resident care and 40% on direct care staff. Funding from Medicaid, however, has been "essentially flat" for the facilities, the groups wrote to Hochul.  

"To meet the staffing standards, many providers must significantly increase their workforce, and all providers are competing for workers who have options to earn similar wages in far less stressful environments," the groups wrote in the letter. "This challenge is particularly acute in upstate where workers earn much less than their downstate counterparts for the same work, and reimbursement rates for providers are significantly lower."

Hochul on Wednesday is set to release her budget proposal, which is expected to be in place by April 1, the start of New York's fiscal year. Last year, she successfully won bonsues for health care workers as well as funding to expand New York's health care workforce by 20% in five years. 

Health care, and especially Medicare, is the largest chunk of the state budget, which is expected to exceed $200 billion in spending. 

Beyond nursing homes, hospitals and health care networks in upstate New York have also called this year for more aid from the state government as financial challenges continue.