May 28 Update from the Pension Boards

Dear Friends,

We hope that you and your loved ones had an opportunity for rest during the Memorial Day weekend. Many of you are working differently as a result of the pandemic – leading virtual worship services, working from home, caring for school-age children and elderly family members. We pray that you are finding time for respite and self-care in the midst of all that you are doing.

Like you, Pension Boards staff members are working above and beyond their normal responsibilities, and are often reluctant to take necessary time for self- and family-care. In an effort to support the wellbeing of our colleagues, we are encouraging staff to use some of their accumulated Paid Time Off (PTO) during this time to disconnect from work, rest, and reenergize.

We are now in the eleventh week of telework. As I mentioned in my report at the Annual Meeting of Members,

“We prepared for this time! We have worked hard over the past five years to build a solid base of preparedness that will allow us to operate for the next 50 years or more—for generations. While we could not have foreseen it, this preparation is precisely what has enabled us to respond appropriately and immediately to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Because of that preparation, we have been able to accomplish much in these 11 weeks. We are also learning much about the ways in which we may operate differently in the future. As one of our Trustees commented at our recent meetings, there are many lessons that the Pension Boards can apply post COVID-19 that will reduce expenses, increase efficiencies, and make us a more responsive and effective organization.

Here are some examples of the changes that are taking place.

  • An increased number of members and employers have been utilizing technology to access and pay their monthly benefits invoices.
  • Member Services continues to enhance their engagement with members, exceeding established service standards.
  • Staff have commented about the reduction in printing and paper use in their home offices. This insight can help us reevaluate the way in which we steward these resources in the office to better support our “go green” initiatives.
  • Colleagues have also expressed how, during this non-commuting period, they are better able to use the time for both work and personal/family responsibilities.
  • And, staff have been deliberate in staying connected with one another – within their departmental teams as well as cross-functionally. This has already had a significant impact on the way we engage with one another in our work, and will continue to strengthen our collaborative efforts on your behalf.

I personally am very proud of the work that the Pension Boards staff team has accomplished!

The majority of our staff will continue to work remotely for some time. Although stay-at-home restrictions are being lifted this week in the counties adjacent to New York City, the city itself remains under stay-at-home orders from the Governor and Mayor. I am pleased to report that we have met our organizational objective of having a phased re-entry plan in place by June 1. However, we will remain flexible in the implementation of the plan, protecting our colleagues’ health and safety while also ensuring that your needs are met.

The Pension Boards’ COVID-19 News and Information web page continues to be updated regularly with important information for UCC employees and employers. You may also contact us at 1.800.642.6543 if you have any questions or need assistance.

Thank you for your continued faithfulness and creativity in serving the United Church of Christ.

Wishing you peace and good health,

Brian R. Bodager
President/CEO



Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI)

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the financial situation of many UCC authorized ministers and their families. This situation has further affected a good number of UCC ministers of all ages – including those nearing retirement or already retired – who are burdened with educational debt and other consumer debt.

MFVI, launched in 2017 with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, is a clergy financial wellness initiative that helps UCC ministers address these problems in two ways: 1) through a three-year online program of financial education and cash incentives and, 2) through a matching grant partnership with the minister’s employing church, Association, or Conference.

A second Lilly grant, awarded to the Pension Boards in late 2019, enables us to expand MFVI’s reach to more ministers in 2020.

Applications and information for MFVI Program 1 (online program of financial education) will be available this Summer on the Pension Boards website in mid-July. The program will accept 60 new members in two cohorts and is open to all UCC authorized ministers.

Applications for Program 2 (matching grants) are available now and will be considered upon receipt. Authorized ministers in congregational settings may apply.

The United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance’s (UCBMA) Generations of Service: Faith and Finance in Action $20 million capital campaign is raising funds to support, among other programs, the Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative. Earlier this year, the National Setting of the United Church of Christ has entered into a partnership with the Pension Boards to raise $3 million across the wider church in support of clergy financial wellness. This collaborative fundraising effort, the first of its kind collaboration, reflects the ministries’ shared commitment to holistic wellbeing of those who serve the church.

Read More on MFVI >>

 



Why Asset Allocation Matters in Investing

Asset allocation is a key ingredient in a successful investment strategy. It refers to how your investment portfolio for a given goal is portioned out among various asset classes (investment categories).

Here are the most widely used asset classes and the risk-and-return profile of each, based on past performance:

  • Cash equivalents include bank savings accounts, short-term certificates of deposit (CDs), US Treasury bills and money market funds. These pose the least risk but have also offered the lowest returns historically.
  • Fixed-income investments are mainly bonds, bond funds and guaranteed insurance products like fixed annuities. These pose moderate risk and have historically yielded moderate returns.
  • Equities, which are stocks and mutual funds, present the most risk but offer the highest potential returns of the three main asset classes. Read More >>

The Pension Boards offers 10 investment fund choices for members with accumulation accounts. Members may choose to allocate their account balances in any or the available funds, or in a combination of funds. If you have questions about whether your current asset allocations are the best choice at this stage in your life and ministry, contact an Ernst & Young financial planner, available at no cost to you through our partnership with EY. Visit the EY Navigate™ website or call the EY Navigate™ Financial Planner Line at 1.877.927.1047, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (ET).

PBUCC's Target Annuitization Date (TAD) Funds offer a simple way to put your asset allocation decisions on automatic pilot. Our team of caring and knowledgeable investment experts has structured the TAD Funds to maximize earnings in the earlier years and reduce risk and preserve capital as you reach your anticipated retirement date.

 



Emergency Grants from the Christmas Fund

If you are experiencing a critical situation and need financial assistance, you may be eligible for an Emergency Grant from the Christmas Fund if you are:

  • a currently Authorized Minister in the United Church of Christ;
  • a lay employee of a UCC congregation, Association, Conference, or National Setting with a minimum of 10 years of service;
  • a surviving spouse/partner of the above; or a
  • a Member in Discernment for at least a year.

If you meet the eligibility criteria described above, please contact your Conference staff, who will then reach out to Rev. Krista Betz, the Director of Ministerial Assistance, to begin the process. UCBMA can respond to the increasing requests for assistance because of the generosity of individuals and congregations to the Christmas Fund.



How to Help in This Moment

Thank you for the support so many of you have immediately given to UCC pastors and church workers who are facing ongoing financial crises at this time. You are making a faithful difference! The requests for assistance continue to arrive in unprecedented numbers, so if you have not yet given, will you consider a gift now to help provide immediate emergency grants for active and retired pastors in need?

You can choose to give online, or make checks payable to UCBMA, earmarked for The Christmas Fund, then mail to: Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, Christmas Fund, 75 Remittance Drive, Suite 1637, Chicago, IL 60675.



Health Plans

All UCC coverage (health, pharmacy, dental, and vision benefits) remains in place, with no discontinuation or interruption in service.

  • COVID-19 antibody testing is available at no cost to participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plans when prescribed by a physician.
  • COVID-19 testing, available currently at no cost to participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plan with Rx, also includes other tests deemed medically appropriate to determine the need for the COVID-19 diagnostic test. Please contact Highmark Member Service at 1.866.763.9471 with any questions.
  • Through September, all in-network deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments are waived for participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement with Rx Health Plans who require hospitalization following a positive test for COVID-19.
  • The normal copay for telemedicine services through Teladoc is also waived at this time.

If you have any questions, or experience any problems with your health coverage, please contact us at 1.800.642.6543.



A Time for Hope

The new challenges and routines that are all facing now can lead to anxiety, stress, and loneliness. A recent Teladoc Health study, almost half of respondents said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily, almost 80% of respondents said that they welcome virtual care to support their mental health needs. If you need to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist about stress or have questions about COVID-19 or another non-emergency illness, visit the Teladoc website or call 1.800.TELADOC (1.800.835.2362). The normal $10 copay for telemedicine services is waived through September 30.

Log In Now >>

Your UCC Health Plan has additional mental health resources to assist participants and their covered dependents in coping with the impact of COVID in healthier ways.

  • Mental health and substance abuse services are available through the Non-Medicare Health Plan and Medicare Supplement w/Rx Plan, at the same coverage levels, copayments, and coinsurance levels as physical care. Please check the Plan Highlights booklet for your plan for more information about your coverage.
  • For Non-Medicare Health Plan participants, the Member Assistance Program through Health Advocate provides resources and guidance to help members cope in these unprecedented conditions. Health Advocate also offers short-term counseling. Visit their website or call 1.877.240.6863.



Employer Online Payment Portal

Paying your monthly invoice electronically during this time is even more important. The Pension Boards online portal allows payments to be automatically applied to your account; it's simple, quick, and easy! Please make your Monthly Invoice Payments online on our website at: https://employers.pbucc.org/

In order to pay your invoice online, it is essential that we have a valid email address for your account.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO MAKE YOUR MONTHLY PAYMENT ONLINE, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU INCLUDE THE REMITTANCE SECTION FROM YOUR INVOICE WITH YOUR PAYMENT. NOT INCLUDING YOUR REMITTANCE SLIP WILL RESULT IN DELAYS ON POSTING PAYMENTS TO YOUR EMPLOYEES’ ACCOUNTS.

Here is how to pay your monthly invoice online.

Using your Internet browser, go to https://employers.pbucc.org/. If you have not yet registered, select Sign-in, then select the New User link to register. Follow the steps to set up your account and create a password. Once you have registered, follow the steps below to pay your invoice:

  • Select Billing.
  • Select View/Pay Bill to review your list of employees and invoice amounts.
  • If you agree with the total amount displayed, select Pay Now to pay your invoice.
  • Follow the prompts on the screen to set up your payments.

If you do not agree with the total amount displayed, please log out of the portal and contact Member Services directly at 1.800.642.6543.



Member Services

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Our full Member Services staff team is available as before to take your calls and answer any questions you may have. They may be reached at 1.800.642.6543 as well as on the online chat function on our website.

During this time, please remember that you can fax or email documents and forms to us at 212.729.2701 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., respectively, avoiding delays that may occur with postal mail.


Stay informed. Visit the Pension Boards’ website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.