COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

 

Defined Benefit Pension


Question:
Will CPF waive clergy pension assessments under certain circumstances?

Answer:
CPF has an existing policy, approved by the CPF Board of Trustees more than 10 years ago and recently affirmed, that allows us to provide temporary relief to parishes whose ability to function is severely impaired following a major disaster (such as a state of emergency).

CPF is offering the neediest and hardest hit congregations temporary waivers of the Clergy Pension Plan assessment owed to The Church Pension Fund. for a period of up to two months during the COVID-19 crisis. We are processing applications now. 

To qualify, a diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Church must certify the following:

  1. The senior-most government official in his or her nation, state, or region has declared a major disaster (such as a state of emergency),
  2. as a direct result of the disaster, the ability of each parish seeking relief to function has been severely impaired, and
  3. there are inadequate resources (including endowments) within the affected congregation and diocese to pay assessments and continue to function.

Please contact your diocesan bishop to discuss a waiver.

 

Question:
What is the process for requesting a waiver?

Answer:
Your diocesan bishop must complete this form and return it to the CPG Account Manager in your region for processing. You can find your account manager at cpg.org/ibams.

 

Question:
Can we decide which two months are waived?

Answer:
Yes, your diocesan bishop should indicate on the form which two months are to be waived.

 

Question:
If a cleric’s retirement date is imminent and the retirement application/ paperwork is signed, is there any possibility of changing the effective date of retirement, assuming the cleric agrees to such a change?

Answer:
Yes, a cleric may contact Client Services by phone or email to discuss changing his or her effective date of retirement as long as the cleric does so prior to the retirement date. However, if the retirement date changes by more than two months, a new application with the canonical bishop’s signature is required.

If a cleric has already retired, he or she may be able to return to work under the Working While Pensioned rules or, if not, by returning to active service and having his or her pension suspended.

 

Question:
Will future pension checks be mailed as scheduled?

Answer:
Pension benefit payments will post as regularly scheduled, and we do not anticipate any disruption in the distribution of future benefit payments.

 

Retirement Savings Plan (RSVP) and Lay Defined Contribution Plan (Lay DC Plan)


Question:
Can plan participants take a hardship withdrawal from the RSVP or Lay DC Plan?

Answer:
Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law by the President on March 27, 2020. Under the CARES Act, certain retirement account rules have been relaxed for eligible individuals affected by the COVID-19 virus. To read more about these provisions, please visit Fidelity Investments

 

Question:
Have any changes been made that will allow plan participants access their funds more quickly?

Answer:
In order to access their funds more quickly, Fidelity has implemented a Zero-Day Wait Electronic Funds Transfer process. Plan Participants can add their bank account information and have the proceeds for eligible distributions deposited electronically into your account without the typical 10-day wait time to add a new bank account. Two-factor authentication will be required, and they will receive real-time alerts via text and email, and a mailed postcard once their account has been updated. Direct deposit will be limited to $50,000 per day during the first 10 calendar days after setup.

This update must be made online by visiting Fidelity NetBenefits® at www.cpg.org/myaccount. Once logged-in, they will need to access the Bank/Tax Information tab. They then click Designate Bank Account under the Bank Account for Direct Deposit section in the middle of the page.

 

Question:
How do plan participants access their account in the RSVP or Lay DC Plan?

Answer:
Visit Fidelity NetBenefits® at www.cpg.org/myaccount, or call a Fidelity representative at (877) 208-0092.

 

Question:
Can CPF waive employer contributions to the RSVP or Lay DC plan?

Answer:
CPF cannot waive employer contributions to the RSVP or Lay DC plan.

An employer may choose to amend its adoption agreement to decrease or stop employer contributions on a prospective basis by completing and submitting an Amended Application form. Lay Pension System rules still apply.

If employees are not receiving eligible compensation, employer contributions may not be required, depending on what the employer has elected in its current adoption agreement.

Note: Lay Pension System contributions are governed by LPS Resolution A138.

 

Health & Welfare, P&C, Church Life, and Disability


Question:
Some non-exempt employees may be at risk of falling below 1,000 compensated hours per plan year due to work-at-home and stay-home policies/orders. Are these employees still eligible for coverage under the Medical Trust’s Episcopal Health Plan?

Answer:
When determining whether a non-exempt employee meets the eligibility rules under the Medical Trust’s Episcopal Health Plan, the employer should look to whether a non-exempt employee is normally scheduled to work 1,000 or more compensated hours per plan year.

Since eligibility for non-exempt employees is based on normally scheduled hours, such non-exempt employees should still be eligible for coverage under the Episcopal Health Plan, provided that the employee is expected to return to his or her normally scheduled hours once the stay-at-home policies/order ends.

 

Question:
If a full-time non-exempt employee’s hours are permanently reduced and they fall below the employer’s rule regarding eligibility for health benefits, will this trigger an Extension of Benefits (EOB) so the employee can continue his or her benefits by paying for them personally?

Answer:
Yes, a permanent reduction in work hours that would make an employee ineligible for employer provided health benefits would trigger an Extension of Benefits (EOB).

 

Question:
If we furlough employees, how long can the furlough last before the employees become ineligible for health benefits?

Answer:
Assumptions:

  • An employee furlough is a mandatory suspension from work without pay.
  • The length of the furlough may be as brief or as long as the employer wants.
  • Furloughed employees are not engaging in any form of work on behalf of their employer whatsoever.
  • Furloughed employees have an expectation that they will return to work.
  • A furloughed employee may be eligible for or receiving unemployment benefits, subject to the applicable state laws.

In this scenario, furloughed employees may retain their CPG employee benefits, including pension, life and health, or terminate their coverage. The employer will not enter a termination of benefits in CPG’s systems (Employee Roster and MLPS). The employer must continue making payments for all applicable CPG employee benefits in order for benefits to remain in effect. The employee will remain eligible until the employer processes a termination of benefits in CPG systems or in the event of another situation that may result in a termination of benefits. Important Note: If there is no expectation that the employee will return to work, the action should be considered a termination rather than a furlough. Benefits should be terminated in CPG systems, and an Extension of Benefits for medical and/or dental benefits will be initiated.

 

Question:
If an active Medical Trust health plan member is unable to have an in-person office visit with his or her healthcare provider because the provider’s office is closed, will virtual visits be permitted?

Answer:
In response to COVID-19, the Medical Trust is allowing claims for virtual visits with network and out-of-network providers that do not use a telehealth platform offered by Anthem or Cigna. Standard levels of benefits and coverage will otherwise apply. This is an exception for medical and behavioral health services rendered through 12/31/2020.

Please note that the Medical Trust is waiving member costs entirely if a member uses a telehealth platform offered by Anthem, Cigna, or Kaiser Permanente (e.g., Anthem’s LiveHealth Online, AmWell for Cigna, MDLive for Cigna, etc.) through 12/31/2020.

 

Question:
Will Cigna and Anthem’s telemedicine program have co-pays?

Answer:
Copayments will be waived for all telemedicine platforms during 2020. This is a short-term exception for services rendered in 2020.

 

Question:
How is the Medical Trust supporting members who incur healthcare out-of-pocket expenses related to COVID-19?

Answer:
Pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which became law on March 18, 2020, The Episcopal Church Medical Trust (the Medical Trust) will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance for its members for healthcare services relating to the evaluation and testing for COVID-19. In addition, the Medical Trust will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and in-network coinsurance for its active members for healthcare services relating to the treatment of COVID-19.

Our health plan vendors are updating their systems currently. In the meantime, if you encounter issues, please call the customer service number on the back of your identification card. A health plan representative can help you resolve any confusion.

 

Question:
Will CPG waive monthly contributions for medical, dental, disability, and/or life?

Answer:
We are unable to waive monthly contributions for medical, dental, disability and/or life coverage. Waiving contributions would put a significant strain on health plan reserves and could have a long-term impact to the health plans’ viability. We are extending the grace period for payments to 90 days (see below.)

 

Question:
Will CPG extend the 30-day grace period for health, disability and life insurance contributions, and property & casualty premiums?

Answer:
CPG will be offering a 90-day hardship grace period allowing deferral of payments for all group benefits and property & casualty insurance coverage purchased through a CPG company without interest or penalty.

Institutions that can afford to make full or partial payments for pension assessments, health benefits (including individuals covered by the Medical Trust’s Extensions of Benefits), property & casualty coverage, life insurance, and disability policies offered through a CPG company should continue to do so. However, we are temporarily implementing a 90-day hardship grace period for those that cannot make timely payments.

CPG will not be cancelling any group benefits or property & casualty insurance coverages, or charging interest for failure to make timely payments, until June 30, 2020.

 

Question:
If an employee covered under a Zurich short-term disability policy or Church Pension Fund Clergy Short-Term Disability Plan are quarantined based on the provider’s orders, is he or she eligible for short-term disability benefits?

Answer:
If you are symptom-free without a positive COVID-19 test result at the beginning of the 14-day quarantine period and you develop symptoms, or if you receive a positive test result during the 14-day quarantine period, the days that you were not working will count toward your 14-day short-term disability elimination period.

Please contact Zurich directly at 800-206-8826 if you have additional questions.

 

Question:
What can members of the Medical Trust’s active and retiree Express Scripts prescription drug plans do to ensure they continue to have access to an adequate supply of prescription medications?

Answer:
Express Scripts and the Medical Trust are monitoring the situation closely and will update our information and policy if or when the situation changes. We are committed to taking appropriate actions to ensure active and retired employees have the medication on hand to keep them healthy. Should an employee have any questions or concerns about his or her individual situation, Express Scripts pharmacists are available 24/7.

If the employee currently fills 30-day supplies of his or her medication at a local pharmacy and would like the convenience of a longer-term supply, the employee can ask his or her physician to write a prescription (if applicable) for a 90-day supply. Then the employee should fill their prescription at Express Scripts Home Delivery. Express Scripts Member Services can help the employee get started.

Active Express Scripts Members: (800) 841-3361

EGWP Express Scripts Members: (866) 544-6963

Accredo Specialty Pharmacy Members: (800) 803-2523

www.express-scripts.com/login

 

Question:
Express Scripts Retail Shipping Options:

Answer:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective March 25, 2020 Express Scripts granted CVS and Walgreens (via their Walgreens Express™ delivery program) a limited out-of-network delivery exception and will permit them to provide free home delivery of prescriptions to Express Scripts’ members in a manner that would otherwise be prohibited. This agreement is due solely to the COVID-19 pandemic and is a temporary exception until further notice.

Contact Express Scripts Member Services for more information about how to access this out-of-network delivery exception.

 

Question:
What resources can the Medical Trust offer to dioceses to support their parishes through this crisis?

Answer:
To help address emotional, physical, and family needs, the Medical Trust offers the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to clergy and lay members of our medical plans, their covered dependents, and any other household members. This benefit provides immediate help, referrals, and resources. The plan covers unlimited telephone consultations and up to 10 face-to-face counseling sessions per issue at no member cost.

Please watch cpg.org for webinars that may become available periodically.

 

General


Question:
What if a plan participant receives a collection letter for any group product or pension plan from Church Pension Group?

Answer:
We are suppressing collection letters for all group products and pension plans offered through CPG for the months of April, May, and June. If you receive a collection letter, please contact Client Services Administrator Service Line at (855) 215-5990.

For members seeking assistance regarding coverage under the Medical Trust’s extension of benefits or personal pension payments under The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan, members may call CPG at (866) 802-6333.

 

Question:
Will CPG make any change to notary requirement policies?

Answer:
At this time, CPG is not making any changes to our notary requirements (e.g., spousal waiver for pension). You may wish to contact local notary locations, such as a UPS Store or a local bank, to find an available notary.

Note that many states are allowing some form of remote online notarization; please check with your local notary locations to see if this is available to you.

We will continue to review and adjust our policies as necessary.

 

Question:
How does the current stock market volatility affect The Church Pension Fund?

Answer:
We want you to know that the financial health of The Church Pension Fund (CPF) remains strong. The volatile market conditions that we are experiencing have a negative effect on the value of the assets in our pension plans, but we expect and prepare for events like these.

For further information, please watch the video on cpg.org for a personal message from Roger Sayler, Executive Vice President, Chief Investment Officer.

 

Question:
Is there anything administrators can do to assist CPG in getting important messages delivered to clergy?

Answer:
As always, CPG values the role our administrators have in the important process of communicating with clergy and lay employees. Communication is key. Please feel free to share information received from CPG with clergy and lay employees, and other church volunteers and leaders with whom CPG is unable to communicate at this time.

If you have feedback or questions you would like to discuss, please contact your IBAMS account manager who can share your feedback with senior leadership.

 

Question:
Will upcoming CPG events such as the Benefits Partnership Conference be cancelled?

Answer:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended cancelling large gatherings. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the May Benefits Partnership Conference and the April Insights & Ideas event on socially responsible investing. We will be in contact with those of you who have already registered for these conferences and will let you know if we are able to reschedule them. We appreciate your patience.

In addition, because we have asked our employees to stay at home and work remotely for now, we are postponing all live Education & Wellness events (Planning for Wellness, CREDO, Enriching Your Retirement, Chaplains Conferences) until further notice.

 

Question:
Where can I get more information about the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act?

Answer:
There are other provisions in the CARES Act that may provide financial support to churches and terminated employees during this difficult time. Please reach out to your Chancellor for additional information on the financial support that may be available to you under the CARES Act.

 

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as investment, tax, or other advice. It does not constitute a contract or an offer for any products or services. In the event of a conflict between this material and the official plan documents or insurance policies, any official plan documents or insurance policies will govern. The Church Pension Fund (“CPF”) and its affiliates (collectively, “CPG”) retain the right to amend, terminate, or modify the terms of any benefit plan and/or insurance policy described in this material at any time, for any reason, and, unless otherwise required by applicable law, without notice.