July 16 Update from the Pension Boards

Dear Friends,

A recent social media post encouraged congregations that were preparing to resume in-person worship to not speak about re-opening, but instead about re-gathering. We now are halfway through July, and four months into our request that our colleagues work remotely. The Pension Boards, like churches and many other places of work and ministry, has never closed. As we continue to slowly test our plan for re-gathering in our office spaces, we continue to use systems, technology, and most important – care and compassion – to serve you, our members and employers.

We also continue to enhance existing tools to help make employer and member transactions simpler and more efficient. In past messages, we asked for your assistance in utilizing the Pension Boards Online Bill Payment Portal. There are two portals – one for employers and another for members who self-pay their benefits. I am pleased to report that usage for both is on the rise. The member portal, launched last October, has processed over $1 million in benefits payments to date, while showing a steady increase in the number of members utilizing it. The employer portal, which went live in April 2020 just as our operations were undergoing significant changes in response to the pandemic, has processed more than $2.8 million in benefits payments and usage among employers has also increased. The online bill payment feature is quick, easy, and ensures that payments are applied to accounts in real time, in comparison with payments that are mailed. If you are not already using the online payment portal, please see the article Online Payment Portal for Members and Employers (below) for information on how to get started.

Our four 2020 Summer Interns continue their immersion and hands-on experience working in key business areas within the organization. At the same time, as they are learning about the Pension Boards’ mission, vision, operations, and organizational culture, they provide us with new insights and ideas. Please see the article below by Information Technology intern Jason Vail, who returned this year after having been part of our inaugural Summer Internship program in 2019.

The interns also are participating in the Sacred Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER), which you have read about in the past weeks. Our first session last week was led by the Rev. Dr. Velda Love, the UCC’s Minister for Racial Justice, and was very well received by staff colleagues, over 60% of whom are persons of color. Dr. Love will facilitate three more sessions in July and August in which we will listen to one another’s experiences of racism respectfully, and name the ways in which – individually and corporately – we must do better. The Pension Boards has been working on cultural transformation for the past year, and the learnings from SC2ER will inform and assist us as we take future steps toward our commitment to anti-racism at all levels of our organization.

I invite you to read the updates from our various functional areas (below) and to visit our COVID-19 web page for the latest information.

On behalf of the staff and Trustees, I extend my best wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and healthy summer.

Best regards,

Brian R. Bodager
President/CEO



COVID-Related Hardship Withdrawals

Under the CARES Act, non-annuitized members who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 (as defined in the Act) are eligible to take hardship withdrawals from their retirement accounts. The following provisions apply for members of the Annuity Plan for the United Church of Christ:

  • Members may request hardship withdrawals only from their personal employee pre-tax contributions (also known as contributions to the tax-sheltered annuity or TSA) or personal after-tax contributions. Withdrawals may not be made from employer contributions.
  • Members may withdraw up to 50% of their account balances, with a maximum of $100,000.

Members who qualify for a withdrawal under these provisions may contact our Member Services team for more information by calling 1.800.642.6543 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



UCC Medicare Advantage Plan w/ Rx

The Pension Boards has selected Humana, Inc. as the UCC Medical Plan’s vendor partner to administer a new UCC Medicare Advantage Plan w/Rx, effective January 1, 2021. The new plan will replace the current UCC Medicare Supplement Plan w/Rx.

In the video presentation below our Health Plan Team discusses the new Plan, including new benefits such as Silver Sneakers membership and coverage for illness during international travel. More information will be coming to you by mail and email in the coming weeks.




Summer 2020 Internship Program: A Message from Jason Vail, Information Technology Intern

This is my second summer interning at the Pension Boards in the IT department, and once again I am constantly being challenged with collaborative, impactful software engineering projects. I was inspired to return to the Pension Boards by my incredible experience last summer, which proved to be extremely educational as I built web applications that are still being used by the firm, and seeing that in fruition has been truly amazing. Currently, my main projects include building an online pension plan enrollment portal as well as improving the firm’s online billing system. Using web technologies such as PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript, I have already been able to make several developments to the back-end of the enrollment portal and automate data transfer processes. I am looking forward to the projects ahead, which include developing educational online tools and participating in an audit of the company website. Along with the hard skills I am learning hands on, it’s the connections I have made here that make this experience so meaningful.



Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI)

MFVI helps UCC ministers address financial 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.

Applications and information for MFVI Program One (online program of financial education) are now available. 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. The deadline to apply for Program One is October 15, 2020.

Applications for Program Two (matching grants) are accepted on a rolling basis and are also available. Authorized ministers in congregational settings are encouraged to apply now.



Generations Financial Resources: A New Service for MFVI Participants

Generations Financial Resources, Inc., a controlled subsidiary of the Pension Boards, is a lending corporation to help alleviate the crushing burden of clergy indebtedness. Operating in coordination with the Minister’s Financial Vitality Initiative launched by the Pension Boards in 2017, it will combine personal finance education, needs-based grants to reduce debt levels, and most significantly, low-interest rate refinancing to substantially reduce the rates that our clergy are paying on their educational debt.

If you are not yet in the MFVI program, we encourage you to apply (see above) and become eligible for Generations Financial Resources. For more information, watch this video, download this informational flyer, and contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Take Advantage of No-Cost Financial Planning Services

For professional and unbiased one-on-one guidance on retirement planning, call an Ernst & Young LLP (EY) financial planner. EY Financial Planning Services is a Pension Boards benefit offered at no cost to Annuity Plan members. Call the EY Navigate Financial Planner Line at 1.877.927.1047 or visit pbucc.eynavigate.com to learn more.



Emergency Grants from the Christmas Fund

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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.



Christmas in July

Each year, our Christmas in July appeal for gifts to the Christmas Fund allows the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance to keep pace with requests for help from those who serve the church. This year of pandemic, that need is acute and urgent. Whether you have been supporting the Christmas Fund for years, responded to one of those recent email appeals with a gift, or have never donated before, our siblings in faith need you now more than ever. A gift of any size can make a huge difference in the life of a stressed colleague. Your gift could make all the difference.

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.

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Online Payment Portal for Members and Employers

We strongly recommend that you take advantage of our online billing portals. 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!

If you are unable to make your monthly payment online, not mailing your check to our bank’s lockbox in Chicago or not including your remittance slip or including an ID on the check will result in delays in posting payments to your account.

Employers

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:

  • Log into the website at https://employers.pbucc.org/.
  • Select Billing, and then 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.

Members

Log into www.pbucc.org and sign in to your account.

  • Click on Pay My Benefit Bill on the Benefit Selection page.
  • Select Pay Bill on the left-hand side of the page.



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.