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
Hours of Operation for the 697 Complex
Effective immediately and until further notice...
The 697 JATC lobby is closed, all apprentice classes have been suspended and all student have been shifted to e-learning from the safety of their homes. Additionally, all journeyman classes have been suspended. The staff is here working on the e-learning material and available by phone 219-940-6175 for any questions.
The 697 Credit Union lobby is closed but the drive-thru will remain OPEN and loans will still be available. The staff is here and available by phone at 219-940-6180 for any questions.
The 697 Health & Benefits Office lobby is closed but the staff is here and available by phone at 219-940-6181 for any questions. We are requiring all members to be seen by appointment only for specific issues that cannot be discussed effectively over the phone or through email.
The 697 Business Office lobby is closed but the staff is here and available by phone at 219-945-0697 for any questions. We are requiring all members to be seen by appointment only for specific issues that cannot be discussed effectively over the phone or through email. Please remember that dues payments can be made online, on the Local 697 website/app or the credit union can send your payment. A Local 697 member can register on the out of work list (book) via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax 219-945-0650. A traveling member can register via the same email or fax by submitting their Current Dues Receipt that shows classification with; letter of introduction from home Local or current term-slip within 3 days of separation OR Business Manager to Business Manager.
CARES ACT - Federal legislation
Congress passed a $2 trillion economic rescue plan that will offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus. Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more.
I added a 9 page attachment for the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) that include the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits through July, 31st; 39 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31st; $1,200 per person tax credit, plus $500 dependent (max 2) subject to income limits and much, much more.
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.
Indiana Executive Orders for COVID-19
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has issued Executive Order 20-05 on March 19th that contains emergency changes for Unemployment, Family Social Services, Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, Essential Services, Department of Revenue, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Department of Health, Public Licensing and all State Agencies.
Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-08 on March 23rd that contains information on the Stay-at-Home Order, Non-Essential Business Must Cease Operations, Prohibited Activities, Prohibited and Permitted Travel, Leaving the Home for Essential Activities, CISA approved list, Essential Travel, Social Distancing and Enforcement of the Executive Orders.
Additionally, Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-12 on March 26th that contains information on Unemployment (Suspensions of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits), Department of Health, Family & Social Services, Professional Licensing and Government Finance. Please take some time to review these official documents as they contain important information for you and your family.
Going to work during the "Stay-at-Home Order"
Let me be clear and concise with this next statement - Each and every one of you has a decision to make whether to go to work if your job is open or stay home because of the possibility of contracting and/or passing “COVID-19”. There shall be no adverse action taken against an employee who refuses to be present at the jobsite so long as the employee genuinely believes there is imminent danger and a reasonable person would agree there is a real danger of contracting coronavirus at the jobsite, nor shall any adverse action be taken against an employee who has been quarantined, or advised to self-quarantine, due to possible exposure to coronavirus. This is part of the NIDERA that we are all currently operating under.
There have been multiple questions as to how does the Governor’s Executive order effect construction. The Executive Order, for the time being, does have exclusions for our industry as stated in section 11, section 14j and section 14v.
I have attached the following documents for everyone’s clarification and understanding…
I strongly suggest you keep this supporting documentation with you along with your current dues receipt in case there are any questions and/or potential issues with Law Enforcement.
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 file for unemployment, visit www.unemployment.in.gov which includes an updated FAQ, tutorial and other helpful information.
Governor Holcomb's Executive Order 20-12suspended the one (1) week waiting period before paying unemployment benefits. This suspension shall be retroactive to March 8, 2020 and will help all Hoosiers.
For the Indiana Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions for the COVID-19 work-related issues that was updated on Thursday, March 26th click HERE.
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 16.07%.
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 existis 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: How do I access my HRA account?
A:Either through the Paylocity online portal at www.Paylocity.com or on the Paylocity app. If you are just in need of sign-on instructions, please be advised that your username is the first initial of your first name, followed by your last name, last four digits of your Social Security Number and your two-letter home state abbreviation.
MEMBER EXAMPLE: Clark Kent, 000-00-1234, Indiana
USER NAME: ckent1234in (not case sensitive)
TEMPORARY PASSWORD: paylocity (all lower case)
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.
Q: I am in the Paylocity website. How do I make an electronic payment to the 697 Benefits Office for my shortage of hours?
Complete the expense detailed fields. Be sure to fill out as many fields as possible and under the expense description, enter “Shortage of Hours”
Under date of service, enter 3/31/2020.
Under the sections titled “Amount Billed” and “Total Expense” enter the amount owed for the shortage of hours.
Under provider, add the Fund.
Provider Name: Local 697 H&B
Provider Account: This is your medical Id number.
Provider Address: 7200 Mississippi Street, Merrillville IN 46410
Click Save.This will automatically prepopulate the fields.
Pick the member as the participant
Upload a copy of the Funds shortage of hours’ notice.
Click “Save for Later”
At the top of the page you will see the following message “Your expense has been successfully added’, and you will also see that a new expense line was added to the top of your expense list.
You are done.
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.
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.