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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Adjustments to Local Church Bill Arrearage Policy, recent legislation to help ease financial burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic, Employee Assistance Program information

    March 23, 2020 / By Susan Latessa, UNY Director of Human Resources/Benefits / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

    With the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States, especially here in New York State, updates, legislation, orders from national, state and local officials have been constantly changing, leaving people nervous, and wondering what is available to them to help manage the disruption and get through this unprecedented time.  

    I am writing today to assure you that you are not in this alone. We will get through this together.

    The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits (CBOPHB) met on March 19, 2020 regarding the new direct bill arrearage policy that went into effect January 1, 2020. The CBOPHB has approved delayed enforcement of the direct bill arrearage policy until June 15, 2020. If a church is still able to pay their direct bills, they should. If a church experiences financial hardship as a result of reduced giving during this time, the church is asked to notify their District Superintendent as well as the Benefits office (Susan Latessa or Julie Valeski) of their situation. We will work through it together, on a case by case basis. 

    The following are ways in which the federal government, Guardian Life, and state government can help those affected by the COVID-19-related enforcements pertaining to work.

    • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201 or “the Act”)

    This act addresses the need for temporary paid employee sick and family leave, as well as other support programs to help individuals and families cope with COVID-19 disruptions. The President signed the bill and it will go into effect within 15 days of its enactment. It includes a mandate for paid sick leave for full and part-time employees as well as expanded paid family leave for employee’s whose children under the age of 18, are home due to school/day care closures. There will be a refundable tax credit for applicable employers who had employees take the leave.  To learn more about this – click on the links below.

    Click here for Wespath’s March 18, 2020 issue of HealthFlex Express for an article related to your Healthflex Benefits and COVID-19 Updates -

    Click here for Wespath’s March 20, 2020 issue of On Board Express for an article related to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) — Preliminary Summary and UMC Impact

    Click here to read Guardian Life’s (our Paid Family Leave Carrier) description of the Paid Family Leave Legislation. As did Wespath, Guardian nicely broken down the confusing language of the legislation.

    Disclaimer: The information above, should not be considered legal or tax advice from UNYUMC or its vendors. Conferences, local churches, or other UMC employers should consult with their own counsel in considering the application of the Act to their circumstances.

    • Unemployment for anyone who is unable to work due to COVID-19 but does not meet the eligibility requirements of the H.R. 6201 legislation noted above – NOTE: NYS is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. Click here to go to the unemployment website where there are instructions on how to file a claim.
    • Automatic IRS tax deferment until July 15, 2020 – The IRS filing deadline is now July 15, 2020. And extensions for filing can be requested for beyond the7/15/2020 deadline. Click here and here for more information.

    Please remember the abundance of resources available to you not just during this difficult time, but every day as a member of the Upper NY Annual Conference through our Employee Assistance Programs:

    • EAP through Optum Health is for full-time clergy and employee’s enrolled in HealthFlex medical benefits. 
    • EAP through ESI is for part time clergy and supply pastors  appointed to local churches, active clergy over the age of 65, clergy on CPP, part-time year-round Conference employees and Conference employees who waived medical insurance

    Click here to be directed to the EAP programs.

    If there is a need for mental health benefits (inpatient/outpatient), there is coverage under the medical plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield IL. Please click here to read my note about the vendor change for mental health/behavioral health claims effective January 1, 2020.

    If you have any questions, please contact any members of the Conference Benefits Office:

    Susan Latessa – Director HR/Benefits -

    Julie Valeski – Benefits Administrator -

    Tracy Rickett – HR Generalist -

    You and your loved ones are all in my prayers.





    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."