Dear Faculty and Staff,
You and your family’s health and well-being are of the utmost importance to us. We continue to pray that you all are healthy. GAC is following the protective measures recommended by health officials in order to do our part to help improve and shorten the effect of COVID-19. The illustration below helps graphically represent the “flattening the curve” effect.
One of these protective measures that Scott Harsh announced in his email dated April 3, was to continue with online learning through the end of the school year. During this social distancing period, GAC is committed more than ever to finding ways to support you and your families. As you can imagine, there is a massive amount of information and resources we are reviewing on a daily basis to find the best avenues of support for you while still enabling us to maintain school operations. We are sharing with you our latest informational updates that may be helpful to alleviate any concerns you may have.
Continuation of work with pay and benefits (as directed by a school administrator)
Our primary goal is to ensure continuation of your pay and benefits (if benefit-eligible) whenever possible. We, therefore, intend for our employees who can work, to continue to work.
- Continuation of your normal role responsibilities: Many job responsibilities lend themselves to the ability to work remotely from home (i.e., faculty, admissions, etc.), while others will need to be physically performed on-campus (e.g., campus services). For these roles, it is “business as usual” with no change in your daily work routine, except perhaps with slight variations such as the location from which it is done, additional onsite precautions to allow for social distancing, or the work schedule.
- Continuation of work related to your normal role or unrelated to your normal role: For some of you whose normal school role is not able to be done remotely nor able to be done onsite while students are not on campus (i.e., bus driver, TAs, Encore Kids, Tennis Academy), it is our goal, if possible, to provide you with opportunities to work and maintain your pay and benefits. That may mean taking on different responsibilities during these most urgent weeks of the pandemic while online learning continues at GAC. Some of these responsibilities will be able to be done remotely (i.e., student engagement activities, data entry) and some on campus (e.g., Nasmyth Environmental Center care). Our senior leadership team has already been actively working with your direct supervisors to think “out-of-the box” in determining viable roles for every employee to fulfill as needed, and your direct supervisor will in turn be in contact with you shortly to provide work assignments if you don’t already have one.
As a reminder, onsite work (except for essential services, such as campus services) is temporarily suspended through April 13 due to the state of Georgia Shelter-in-Place Order that became effective April 3. The Shelter-in-Place Order restricts individuals within the state to remain in their homes except for essential personal health/safety needs or essential roles needed to maintain school operations. GAC is considered to be an essential business.
Continuation of pay and benefits when unable to work due to COVID-19
Due to COVID-19 related reasons, there may be periods when, despite the availability of GAC work, you are unable to work because you (a) do not have available childcare services for your dependent child(ren) or (b) you or an immediate family member are quarantined. Below are further details of each of these scenarios.
- Self-care or care of a family member: COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave. The federal government has enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If you are unable to work because you or a family member are quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider) and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, you may utilize the Emergency Paid Sick Leave option.
- You may take up to two weeks – or ten days – (80 hours for a full-time employee, or for a part-time employee, the number of hours equal to the average number of hours that the employee works over a typical two-week period) of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons. However, the total number of hours for which you receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act;
- Any GAC benefits you are participating in will continue during this period;
- You will need to submit your time off request in Paylocity. The code you will select, depending on the reason, will be either “FFCRA paid sick pay – self” or “FFCRA paid sick pay – dependent.” Note: Paylocity is in the process of loading these codes into the Time Off Request area; if you need to elect one of them and do not yet see it loaded as an option, contact GAC Human Resources.
Click on FFCRA for further information.
- Lack of available childcare services: COVID-19 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).The federal government has enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If GAC has work for you but you are unable to work because you are caring for your dependent child(ren) due to school or childcare facility closure based on COVID-19 related reasons, you may utilize the FFCRA FMLA option.
- You may take the leave up to a maximum of twelve weeks;
- The first two weeks of the leave is unpaid. You may utilize the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave during these first two weeks;
- Weeks three up to a maximum of twelve weeks are paid at the higher of your regular rate of pay, or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage, paid at:
- 100% up to a maximum $511 daily and $5,110 total (note that in some cases this may be less than your regular rate of pay) for qualifying reasons (subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19; or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis);
- 2/3 up to $200 daily and $2,000 total (note that in some cases this may be less than your regular rate of pay) for qualifying reasons (caring for an individual subject to an order or self-quarantine as described or, is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services);
- Up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave paid at 2/3 for up to $200 daily and $12,000 total (note that in some cases this may be less than your regular rate of pay) for qualifying reason (caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable).
- A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work.
- If needed, you may take the leave intermittently if both you and GAC (as determined by HR) agree. We want to collaborate with you to achieve mutual flexibility on helping you fulfill your role responsibilities.
- Any GAC benefits you are currently participating in will continue during the leave.
If you should need to request this type of leave, you must:
- Click here to complete the request form and submit it with supporting documentation to GAC Human Resources. Based on IRS guidelines, your documentation in support of such leave can include a notice that has been posted on a government, school, or day care website, or published in a newspaper, or an email from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider.
- Once your COVID-19 FMLA Request is approved by GAC Human Resources, then GAC Human Resources will initiate the leave tracking within Paylocity on your behalf.
Please be aware that, if you and GAC agree, you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are considered to be able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule. Click on FFCRA for further information.
Continuation of pay and benefits if choose to not work unrelated to COVID-19
If you decline a GAC work assignment for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, then you may continue your pay by utilizing your personal, sick or vacation (for eligible employees) leave benefits from this current benefit year and, if needed, from the next benefit year (2020-21). Any elected benefits (for benefit-eligible employees) would continue.
Continuation of pay and benefits if and when no GAC work available
GAC is committed to every employee continuing to work in some capacity through this online learning and social distancing period. However, there may come a point when there is no available work, regardless of our best efforts to design those opportunities for you. Should that point arrive on or after April 1, 2020, then GAC will continue to provide you with your regular rate of pay and elected benefits (if benefit-eligible) starting from the point there is no available work offered by GAC, and continue through either the point that (a) a GAC work assignment becomes available or (b) the end of the school year, whichever occurs first. To be eligible for this option, you must have been available for work that GAC extended to you and not declined the work assignment up until the point the lack of work began.
Dependent Care Benefit
The IRS is allowing employers to amend their Dependent Care benefit plan to allow employees to make mid-year plan changes in order to adjust their annual contribution election if they no longer have available childcare option services due to COVID-19 related reasons. GAC has therefore amended our Dependent Care benefit plan to allow for such. If you wish to change your Dependent Care benefit contribution amount, click here to complete the change election form and submit it to GAC Human Resources.
Healthcare FSA (Flexible Spending Care) Benefit
The IRS is allowing employers to amend their Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan (for both the limited and regular FSA options) to allow employees to make mid-year plan changes in order to adjust their annual contribution election if needed due to the impact of COVID-19 related reasons. GAC has therefore amended our Healthcare FSA benefit plan to allow for such. If you wish to change your Healthcare FSA benefit contribution amount, click here to complete the change election form and submit it to GAC Human Resources.
We have three updates we want to make you aware of associated with GAC’s group medical plan:
- If you are currently enrolled in our GAC medical plan and you elected to participate in the Wellness Program for eligibility of the lower medical premium rate, you may recall that one of the Wellness Program requirements was an annual physical exam. Since we encourage you to continue COVID-19 recommended precautions, we recognize this would not be a time period when you should be getting your annual physical. Therefore, we will be extending the June 1 deadline until a later date. Simply notify Human Resources (Sherry Bolling) of the date you have it rescheduled to (allow sufficient time beyond the COVID-19 CDC and/or COVID-19 National Task Force recommended precautionary timeframes).
- If (a) you are not currently enrolled in our GAC group medical plan or (b) you are currently enrolled in our GAC group medical plan but your eligible dependent is not covered under your plan, our medical plan provider (Aetna) is providing a Special Open Enrollment period (SEP) for any benefit-eligible employee (full-time employee) to enroll in our GAC group medical plan.
- The Special Open Enrollment is scheduled for Monday, April 6, 2020 through Friday, April 17, 2020.
- The SEP is limited to eligible employees and dependents who did not previously elect coverage during GAC’s Open Enrollment in August 2019.
- Existing members can add dependents to their plan during the SEP.
- Enrollees can choose between an April 1, 2020, or May 1, 2020, effective coverage date.
- During the SEP, current members will not be able to change plans.
- At this time, the SEP is limited to medical, pharmacy, and vision benefit plans.
- Don’t forget that your GAC group medical plan includes telemedicine and 24/7 nurse care options. Click on Open Enrollment Guide for further details on page 12 or contact Aetna at (800) 545-5299.
OTC (Over-the-Counter) and Medicines without Prescription
Due to the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, there have been changes for Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Healthcare and Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) guidelines related to eligibility for over-the-counter (OTC) and medicines without prescription expenses to be reimbursed. The changes are effective for expenses incurred after December 31, 2019. These provisions don’t have an expiration date.
- It allows patients to use HSA and FSA healthcare funds to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines, including those needed in quarantine and social distancing, without a prescription from a physician.
- It also adds feminine hygiene products to the list of eligible over-the-counter items.
Important information related to members using their PayFlex debit card for newly eligible OTC items:
- When paying for eligible items at various locations or online, the purchase is typically “verified as eligible or not” at the point of sale using Inventory Information Approval System (IIAS). Given the new legislation, members should allow time for the debit card system to update. Updating the card system isn’t something PayFlex manages or has control over.
- If the PayFlex debit card doesn’t work at time of purchase, members can pay out of pocket, and request reimbursement from their PayFlex account funds.
Retirement Plan Loan
If you participate in the GAC group retirement plan, you may take a loan against your retirement plan funds. For further information contact Principal Financial Group at 1-800-547-7754.
Effective March 13, all federal loans have a 0% interest rate. This, on its own, does not change the amortization schedule or payment amount of loans.
- All federal loans are eligible for a 60-day deferment with no penalty. A deferment means no payment is due. Employees with federal loans MUST call their servicer to request this. It is not automatic (unless it is 30 days past due – see #2 below). During the deferment, interest will not accrue on these loans.
- If a federal loan is more than 30 days past due or becomes more than 31 days delinquent, the deferment will be automatic and payments will be suspended.
If borrowers continue to make their regular payments, more of that payment will be going to principal and they will pay it off sooner. If they are struggling with making payments, the new announcements related to COVID-19 can provide some temporary relief. If borrowers need to delay payments or change their payment amounts going forward, there are options to help. The BenefitEd team is eager to assist employees with questions directly or refer them to their loan servicer for additional help at 844-358-5707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of you may have read or heard about expanded unemployment compensation benefits related to COVID-19. Fortunately for GAC employees, this option will not be needed by you starting April 1. As previously referenced, our goal is for every employee to continue working and, if we reach a point where we do not have any work to assign to you, then GAC will continue your pay and elected benefits (if benefit-eligible) starting from the point there is no available work offered by GAC, and continue through either the point that (a) a GAC work assignment becomes available or (b) the end of the school year, whichever occurs first.
We continue to explore any and all resources that may benefit you during these unprecedented times. Here are more resources:
- Our benefit broker (USI) provided us with a terrific toolkit chocked full of helpful information. Although it was intended originally for us as an employer, I have extracted the sections that would benefit you, our employee. You may access it by clicking on COVID-19 Toolkit. We recognize that as quickly as we send you information related to COVID-19 precautions, such as this toolkit, that more updated information becomes available. Please therefore always refer to the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.
- We have included a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) document. These FAQs have continued to be updated as additional information has been developed to assist you. You may access it by clicking on COVID-19 FAQs. If you should have any questions beyond these, do not hesitate to contact GAC Human Resources.
- We encourage you to continue to take heart in the fact that we are a people of faith. We know that this is God’s world and He is in control. To that end, I would like to share with you the lyrics of a song and a bible verse that helps to remind us of the Lord’s plan and protection. Click on God is in Control to view it.
Remember, this will get better and we are all in it together. It is an opportunity to extend the remarkable power of compassion and kindness to others as well as build upon our family relationships. Please be assured that we are here to assist you in any way possible and are praying daily for you and your family’s well-being.
All the best,