June 3 Update from the Pension Boards

Dear Friends,

Each week since the closure of the Pension Boards’ offices in mid-March, we have provided updates to let you – our members and employers – know how our work on your behalf continues, and to provide information about benefits, services, and other resources available in this time.


Now, in our twelfth week of working from home, we are continuing to carry out all business operations as well as carefully planning for the eventual return to our offices at a date still to be determined.

We have talked a good deal in recent weeks about the various stresses we are all experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, I wish to speak to something that is weighing heavily on most of our hearts and minds – the nationwide protests and violence following the recent killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The protests – many of which are happening in or near communities in which we live – have exacerbated our individual and collective anxiety and pain.

As a faith-based ministry, the Pension Boards is committed to serving you and all persons in ways that demonstrate our church’s values of compassion, justice, equity, and peace. You may recall reading in recent weeks about how our work in Corporate Social Responsibility is focused strongly on racial justice. An example of how our programs are engaging in faithful and responsive ministry in these times is the way younger pastors in our Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI) are serving on the front lines of ministry, using the leadership skills honed in the program.

The Trustees and Management of the Pension Boards affirm that we stand in solidarity with United Church of Christ national and Conference leaders, who have been a pastoral and prophetic presence in the same communities that have been most affected over the past week. I encourage you to read the May 28 statement by the UCC National Officers: Lynching Justice in America, if you have not already done so. The UCC Board of Directors also adopted a statement on June 2 condemning racist actions.

The safety and wellbeing of our staff colleagues has always been at the forefront. We will pay attention not only to the coronavirus, but also to the unrest in our nation as we determine when we will re-open our offices. Updates will be provided in these weekly messages.

My prayers for you, your loved ones, and your ministries continue.

Stay safe and in 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 One (online program of financial education) will be available in mid-July on the Pension Boards website. The program will accept 60 new members in two cohorts and because of the Lilly Endowment’s generosity, we are now able to open the application process to all UCC authorized ministers.

Applications for Program two (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 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 >>

 



PBUCC and MIDs

Are you a Member in Discernment in a UCC Association or Conference? The Pension Boards wants to support you at every stage of your ministry – from your first call to your retirement years. Pension Boards staff will be participating in the United Church of Christ Member in Discernment Social Distancing Gathering on June 18, from 3:30-4:45 p.m. (Eastern), to discuss our plans, programs, and other benefits designed to assist you in your ministry journey and to answer your questions. We look forward to connecting with you on June 18.

 



Markets: May 2020 Commentary

Financial markets continued to move in a positive direction in May after a solid rebound in April, with the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index rising an additional 4.76%.

Various fiscal programs so far this year including The CARES Act, Exchange Stabilization Fund, Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility (PPPLF), and several other Federal Reserve (Fed) programs like the Main Street Lending Program and Municipal Liquidity Facility have been the major factors in the market rebound since the lows on March 23.

Investors continue to be concerned about the human toll and economic impact of COVID-19, which has impacted well over 6.5 million people and has claimed well over 380,000 lives globally. U.S. states are reopening, and activities are slowly resuming, giving investors near-term optimism about a faster market recovery. The market rebound stands in stark contrast to the legitimate and resurgent demands for racial justice.

Red the Investments Update >>

 



A Retirement Planning To-Do List for Every Career Stage

Retirement is something you should plan for from your first days on your first job through the rest of your working years. Use the information below as a handy guide to your most important retirement planning tasks at each stage of your career.

Starting out

  • Start saving for retirement. Make a habit of it. Use payroll deductions to save automatically through your workplace retirement savings plan. (For Pension Boards members, you can make tax-free contributions through an Employee Retirement Contribution Account. Learn more here.) If your plan offers matching contributions, try to save at least enough to get the full amount of the match.
  • Increase your contributions to retirement savings by at least 1% of pay each year. Also, consider increasing your contributions every time you get a pay raise.
  • Become an investor. Always invest your savings based on the number of years before you plan to retire, the investment return you would like to achieve, and your tolerance for risk. Revisit your asset allocation (investment mix) at least once a year or whenever you have a major life event, like getting married or divorced or adding a child to your family. (Pension Boards members can also invest in Target Annuitization Date (TAD) Funds which invest more aggressively when you are years away from retirement, and more conservatively as you approach retirement. Watch this video to learn more.)

Mid-career

  • Max-out your retirement savings contributions. At this point, you are probably in your peak earning years. So, try to save as much as you can in your workplace savings plan and possibly an IRA.
  • If you switch jobs, keep your workplace savings plan money invested in a tax-deferred account. If the employer you are leaving allows it, you can keep the money invested in that employer’s plan. Or, you can roll the money over to an account with your new employer or an IRA. (Learn about the Pension Boards’ Rollover Contribution Account for non-annuitized members here.)
  • Keep tabs on your asset allocation. Continue to review your investment mix annually or whenever you have a big life event.

Read the Full EY Article >>

 



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.
  • 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.

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

 



Employer Online Payment Portal

Greater numbers of employers are taking advantage of the opportunity to pay benefits invoices online. If you have not already set up an employer account on our website, click here to register for online bill payment. Select the New User link to register. You will need to have a valid email address on file with the Pension Boards. If we do not have a valid email address, please contact our Member Services team at 1.800.642.6543. If a valid email address is on file, follow the steps to set up your account and create a password. Once 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.

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.

If you have any questions, please contact Member Services at the number listed above.



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.