July 24 Update from the Pension Boards

Dear Friends,

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
(John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy,” 1980)

These words, written and sung by John Lennon 40 years ago to his then-five-year-old son, carry a message for the present times. Many of our “best laid plans” changed in recent months because of circumstances beyond our control. Yet, these unexpected deviations from the courses we imagined and planned have also been rich with new insights, learnings, and ways of doing what we do. In your congregations and ministry settings, many of you had to move from in-person worship and meetings to live-streaming and video conferencing. You created new ways of serving compassionately and effectively that will likely influence the way you carry out your mission in the future.

Likewise, the Pension Boards has undergone a dramatic change. We went from fully-staffed national offices to 70+ remote offices, set up on short notice in our spare bedrooms, kitchen tables, basements, and more. While none of us anticipated the disruptions of a global pandemic, our successful transition to working from home was possible because robust plans were already in place and had been tested to ensure seamless continuity in our operations in the event of an unforeseen interruption.

Having a business continuity plan in place has enabled us not only to respond to the immediate issues resulting from the pandemic, it has also allowed us to continue to make progress with strategic initiatives and internal process improvements that are part of how our “life happens.” In my previous messages, you have read about new online payment portals for employers and self-pay members, the launch of a new Medicare Advantage Plan w/ Rx, and enhancements to our customer service. We have also been able to move forward with scheduled operational changes. Work has already begun on the year-end close of the Target Annuitization Date (TAD) 2020 Fund, and initial communications have gone out to members. In keeping with the Annuity Plan for the United Church of Christ plan document, next month we will also begin the process of closing out inactive Annuity Plan accounts with accumulation balances of less than $10,000, with distributions of the full balance to those members for whom this applies. Please read the article, Annuity Plan Account Distributions, immediately below this message for more information.

Our Summer Interns are now more than halfway through their internship experiences with the Pension Boards. Please read the article by Finance Intern Linh (Elise) Khanh Nguyen (below). At a meeting earlier this week, the interns discussed how the organization has adapted to different ways of doing its work in unprecedented times. Their response was that what keeps the Pension Boards grounded are its core values, vision, and mission. We continue to do the work which we were entrusted to do more than 100 years ago – responsible stewardship of the resources members and employers entrust to our care, and compassionate response to your needs.

No matter the circumstances of how we do our work on any particular day – in times of disruption and in times of normalcy – this remains our commitment.

Please continue to check our COVID-19 web page for the latest information.

Be well, and stay safe.

Best regards,

Brian R. Bodager
President/CEO



Annuity Plan Account Distributions: Members with Balances Under $10,000

The Annuity Plan for the United Church of Christ plan document (section 4.06(a)) states that members who have not been active in the Plan for more than three months and who have a balance of less than $10,000 will receive a distribution of the entire account balance.

Beginning in August 2020, the Pension Boards United-Church of Christ will cash out the accounts of Annuity Plan members who are no longer working for a United Church of Christ (UCC) employer, Conference, Association, National Setting, or any UCC-affiliated organization, and for whom contributions are no longer being made to their Annuity Plan accounts.

The distribution will be paid by our bank, The Northern Trust Company.

Members who qualify for the distribution:

  • Have less than $10,000 in their Annuity Plan accumulation accounts
  • Are inactive
  • Have not been employed for three months or greater
  • Are no longer contributing to the Annuity Plan

You may view your vested account balance by logging into the PBUCC website member login portal, and signing into your account using your seven-digit Pension Boards Member ID number and password. If you have not yet created your online account, please follow the instructions on the member login portal.

For additional information or questions, please contact the Pension Boards Member Services at 1.800.642.6543 and follow the prompt for Member Services.



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.




Online Payment Portal for Members and Employers

We strongly recommend that you to 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, it is essential that you include the remittance section from your invoice or include your Employer or Member ID on the check, and to mail your check to: Pension Boards-UCC, 75 Remittance Drive, Suite 1592, Chicago, IL 60675-1592.

Please do not send checks for Annuity Plan pension contributions and Health Plan premiums to the Pension Boards at 475 Riverside Drive. Not mailing your check to our bank’s Chicago address, or not including your remittance slip or including your Member ID on the check will result in delays on 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.



Summer 2020 Internship Program: A Message from Finance Intern Linh (Elise) Khanh Nguyen

We're already more than halfway through the internship and so far my experience has been very positive. I’ve been working on automating analysis of our members’ data, which is updated monthly. I used Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to automatically calculate metrics and draw distributions across age and states. We’re also looking into gathering more marketing data and run regression on the data to see if there are ways we can better target our donors and contributors. My second project is to study volatility in the market, where I have been able to automate the data gathering process and continue with the study. Alongside that, I’ve been working with the other interns to do a capstone project to examine the Pension Boards’ Generations Financial Resources website. We’re trying to contribute ideas on how to optimize the content, look, and feel of the site to make it more appealing and user-friendly. Everyone’s been super helpful and friendly. My manager gave me work that allows me to develop my skills where I am not only learning new things, but truly enjoying the work that I do.



Ministers’ Financial Vitality Initiative (MFVI)

MFVI helps UCC ministers achieve greater financial vitality 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.

The Christmas In July video is available below:

 



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.