Brothers & Sisters – As you know, the COVID-19 situation continues to change at a rapid pace so I have decided to start this “COVID-19 Bulletin Board” as a centralized reference point for you and your family. This will continue to be updated as we have a very bumpy road ahead of us. Please make sure you have the Local 697 app download and the notifications turned on as I have been, and will continue to send out “push notifications” whenever new information is added.
Remember Brothers and Sisters, we have never seen a crisis like this in our lifetimes – please make safe and smart decisions for you and your family. Together, we will get through this and I will not leave your side.
Ryan R. Reithel
Business Manager / Financial Secretary
IBEW Local Union 697
Help for Local 697 Members
The recent Covid-19 global pandemic has flipped our lives inside out. Stress and depression have become our new normal and most of us don’t even realize it. Life isn’t always easy, but with Perspectives’ EAP, getting help or support is. Perspectives’ EAP is available 24/7. Access to a variety of resources is at your fingertips.
ONLINE: Perspectives Online is a convenient way to access a vast and continually refreshed library of articles, self-guided assessments, searchable databases, skill building courses, links, information and resources in the following areas: Parenting, Aging, Balancing, Thriving, Working, Living, and International. www.perspectivesltd.com
OVER THE PHONE: Masters and PhD level EAP counselors are available to answer any questions and/or work with you to locate resources to assist you. 1-800-456-6327
IN-PERSON: Counselors will listen and assess your situation in order to develop a plan of action best suited to your needs. When appropriate, this plan may consist of short-term counseling within the EAP. Other times, you may receive a referral to a qualified professional and/or resource for further assistance. To schedule an appointment, call between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST weekdays.
Don’t wait until it’s too late…
Cancelled or Postponed Local 697 Events
Local 697 Committees & Clubs – The Local 697 EWMC, RENEW, Sisters, Motorcycle Club and the 697 Veterans have all suspended their meetings during the pandemic. The plan is to slowly get back started in the 2nd quarter of 2021 and all meetings will have a push notification and will be posted on the Local 697 website.
In recognition of the current emergency in our nation and the need for our industry to react quickly to this and future emergencies, IBEW Local 153, 531, 697 and the Northern Indiana NECA Chapter have developed the Northern Indiana Disease Emergency Response Agreement (NIDERA)for use by our contractors and members. This agreement provides our industry with the ability to react quickly to potential emergencies related to this pandemic.The provisions of the agreement will become effective immediately, March 16, 2020, as it is intended for use and shall remain in effect until terminated. The parties shall meet via teleconference every 30 days to evaluate this agreement and determine its continued utility.
Filing for Unemployment
Per the NIDERA that we are currently operating under, you are allowed to file for unemployment during your permitted furlough as a direct result of the Coronavirus. When you come to the section that asks if your employer has a “Sub Fund” click NO as your 697 Sub Fund is NOT tied to your employer. You can only file for unemployment insurance benefits online with a computer, tablet, or smart phone.
To view the simplified 1, 2, 3 steps for filing Indiana unemployment - click HERE
To file for unemployment, visit www.unemployment.in.gov which includes an updated FAQ, tutorial and other helpful information.
For the Indiana Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions for the COVID-19 work-related issues that was updated on Monday, January 11th click HERE. Please note this is an interactive 22 page document with lot of great information.
DWD has released a new set of simple how-to videos to assist the user experience for claimants. The new video collection can be found here: https://on.in.gov/uivids
Please be patient and remember, there is a Covid-19 section at the end to help clarify your reason for filing. There are Covid-19 questions you will have to answer.
It's currently taking 21 days to process unemployment insurance claims (i.e., To receive the first payment after initial claim filing). The Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is waving the 1-week waiting period. This means claimants will be paid for the first week of unemployment, not that the payments will be expedited by a week.
Multi-State Unemployment Insurance Benefit Claims
If within the based period (the first four of the last five quarters) a member has worked for contractors in two different states and is now laid off--as a practical matter--they should file for unemployment in the state with the highest weekly benefit amounts. (They may not file in both.) This assumes that the claimant has earned enough wage credits in that state to qualify for UI benefits. If they don’t, they may be told to file in the second state. Indiana has the ability for a claimant to file a “combined wage claim,” so this should not be the case if they file in Indiana.
Local 697 Sub Fund
In conjunction with the new NECA-IBEW Northern Indiana Disease Emergency Response Agreement (NIDERA) that is in effect, the Trustees of the Local 697 Sub Fund took the following action:
BE IT RESOLVED the Eligibility for Weekly Sub Fund Benefit Rules A, C and D of the Summary Plan Description found on page 10 of said Summary Plan Description shall be suspended until either NIDERA is terminated or until further notice is given by the Trustees, whichever occurs first.
To summarize: In light of the COVID-19 situation and the potential for job shut downs which may result in temporary unemployment, the Trustees of the Sub Fund have suspended the requirements that: a member must have $1,200 accumulated in their individual Sub Fund Account; be signed on the IBEW Local 697 out of work list; or be available to accept a call for work as a prelude to receive their Sub Fund Benefit.
Please be aware that you must still apply for state unemployment before you can obtain any Sub Fund benefit. If you qualify for Sub Fund benefit, you may choose to receive a benefit of $150 or $300 per week. All other provisions of the Summary Plan Description shall remain in full force and effect. If you have any questions, please contact the Fund office.
As it was and will remain, you DO NOT have to draw from your Sub Fund if you are on unemployment. Please use the Sub Fund benefit so it will work best for you and your family as we have a long and bumpy road ahead of us.
Here are the instructions for getting your SUB Fund benefits started...
If you do not wish to e-mail the paperwork, you may either mail in the forms or drop them off through the Credit Unions drive-up window.
Health Care - hours and eligibility
At this point, there have not been any changes made. All options are under continual review as we HAVE TO make sure this fund stays healthy and can take the medical impact from the COVID-19 virus to protect you and your family.
Here is a list of Questions & Answers and helpful tips...
Q: How many hours do I need to continue my coverage?
A:Journeypersons are required to have 420 hours contributed on their behalf during a calendar quarter or make a self-payment equivalent to the monthly cost of the hourly employer contribution requirement. Apprentices participants need 326 hours contributed on their behalf during a calendar quarter or make a self-payment equivalent to the monthly cost of the hourly employer contribution requirement.
Q: How does the Health and Benefit Plan determine my eligibility?
A:Coverage under the Plan is divided into four benefit periods and are known a "Work Quarter". Each "Work Quarter" consists of three consecutive calendar months: January- February-March, April-May-June, July-August-September and October-November-December. Calendar quarters in which the Fund received hourly contributions on your behalf are termed “Work Quarter”. “Quarter of Coverage” is credited when the required number of hours or the premium expense equivalent is received by the Fund for the corresponding calendar “Work Quarter”.
Quarter of Coverage
Please note that the middle column is deliberately left blank to emphasis the fact that there exists an administrative “lag quarter” that separates a work quarter from its corresponding quarter of coverage. Meaning: Contributions received for covered worked performed in any work quarter do not provide coverage in the subsequent calendar quarter of coverage. Rather, it skips a quarter.
Q: How do I know how many hours I worked within a quarter?
A:Participants wishing to verify the number of hours contributed/reported on their behalf during any period of time, can do so by using one of four methods:
Check your pay stubs.
Check the balance within your vacation fund. Then take the vacation dollar amount contributed for that month and divide that figure by 5%, which is the rate in which your employer is required to contribute. That figure will provide you with your gross salary for that month. Now divide that figure by the hourly wage.That figure is the number of hours you worked that month.
Check the amounts contributed to their Annuity (Vanguard Account). Follow the same steps as listed above but use the gross salary contribution rate 16.37%.
Or you can always call the call the Fund Office at 219-940-6181.
Q: What happened to the hour bank?
A:On October 1, 2018, balances within an employee’s hour bank were combined with whatever balance existed within their (MRP) Medical Reimbursement Plan account to create the (HRA) Health Reimbursement Account. Meaning: The (MRP) no longer exists and was moved into the (HRA).
Q: What is a (HRA) Health Reimbursement Account ?
A:Your Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) is a tax-advantage personalized health benefit that allows you to pay for a wide range of medical expenses considered to be qualified under IRS Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code, including self-payment premiums to the Health and Benefit Plan.
Q: Can I use HRA monies to make self or payments?
A:Yes. But you must make sure that your shortage of hours payment is received no later than the end of business on the first business day of the month.
Remember, for the reason that the hour bank was combined with the MRP account in October 1, 2018, the Plan does not deduct your HRA account for any shortage of hours. You must make those payments yourself.
To assist Local 697 Members during these difficult times the Local 697 Federal Credit Union is offering to qualifying Members in good standing, a one-time Member Assistance Loan with the following terms:
Loan amount up to $5,000 with no payments for 90 days*
Low interest rate of 6.99%*
Up to 24 months to pay back the loan in full (after the 90-day payment deferment 27-month total term)*
*Interest accrues from the date of loan closing. Maximum term is 24 months and maximum loan amount is $5,000 to qualified borrowers. Approximate payment of $44.77 per $1,000 financed.
For our members that have their Real Estate Loans with the Local 697 Credit Union that are being serviced by Member First Mortgage and are requesting hardship assistance, you can visit their website at www.memberfirstmortgage.com and under the resources tab is a "hardship assistance link" that gives you direct access to the Mortgage Assistance Application which needs to be completed and returned. You can contact them at 866-636-1053 or the Local 697 Credit Union at 219-845-6040 if you have questions.
Annuity - Vanguard Account
We are currently working with our legal council and Vanguard along with the provisions in the proposed Federal stimulus bill(s). Information keeps changing by the day and nothing has been finalized in Congress at this point. Additionally, this will have to be approved at the State level. It is critical to make sure our emergency options DO NOT have catastrophic tax consequences for our members & their families. Please keep this option as a last resort with your planning and preparation during this crisis.
Teladoc (telemedicine) is included with your Local 697 Health Care. I know most of you have used it over the past year, but I wanted to remind everyone that this benefit is available to you and your family during this global pandemic. If you have not downloaded the Teladoc app, you can do this by clicking on the “Benefits Office” tab of the Local 697 website or click HERE.
OSHA - Guidance on Preparing workplaces for Covid-19
This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Material contained in this publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced, fully or partially, without permission. Source credit is requested but not required. To view the 35 page document click HERE.
The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. If you are healthy and able, please come out to donate. If you have questions about donating during the COVID-19 global pandemic or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.redcrossblood.org for information and precautions in place for donors.