COVID-19 Financial Relief for BWC Churches
March 20, 2020
In response to the financial stress that has been introduced into our churches as a result of the urgent actions being taken by all of our communities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baltimore-Washington Conference is promoting a multi-layered approach to support the financial health of our churches at this time.
Board of Pensions is Waiving Local Church Benefit Obligations for Three Months
Beginning with the April 2020 medical and pension invoice and extending through and including June 2020, local churches will not be billed for the local church component of the Conference Sponsored Pension and Health Benefits Plans.
Benefit obligations waived include:
- Employer Pension Premiums (CRSP-DB, CRSP-DC, and CPP/UMLife Option)
- Employer HealthFlex Premiums ($860/month per participant)
This waiver will not impact the benefits received by any of the participants.
Board of Trustee Loans and Grants
The Conference Trustees continue to offer local churches access to loans and grants funded by the Loan Endowment Fund. Emergency Loan and Grant requests are accepted year-round.
Applications for loans and grants are found online at this link: https://www.bwcumc.org/administration/local-church-resources/grants-and-loans/
We give thanks to the Stewardship Teams that undergird our ministry. As the Baltimore-Washington Conference, we truly are one, united in this time of challenge as the people of God.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much funding is required to support this initiative and what is the source of the funds?
The 3-month initiative by the Board of Pensions will waive $1,120,000 of pension obligations and $1,350,000 of health benefit obligations. The funding is from the undesignated reserves of the Board of Pensions.
Is the availability of undesignated reserve funds an indication that churches have been paying too much for their benefits?
The undesignated reserve funds were created as a result of actions by Wespath to provide periodic rebates to the Conference in response to lower than expected claims and plan management costs. After this action, the remaining undesignated reserves will be $2,530,000 which is approximately 3-months of direct billing amounts to local churches.
Will my pension benefits or medical coverage be changed in any way by this waiver?
Participants' pension and medical benefits will not be impacted due to this waiver.
Will churches be asked to repay the amounts that are being waived?
No. No repayment is necessary. The waiver is given to local churches to help defray the cost of their benefit obligations in the months of April, May, and June 2020.
How much does the average church pay for pension and medical benefits?
Clergy pensions are typically 18% of plan compensation for clergy serving full-time appointments and 15% at half-time appointments. Churches also contribute $860/month to the medical premiums of clergy who serve at least a three-quarters-time appointment.
Will the waiver impact the participant benefit contributions?
No. The waiver does not impact the participant benefit contributions that are made to the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP), HealthFlex Premiums, Health Savings Account (HSA), and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that includes both the Medical Reimbursement Account (MRA) and Dependent Care Account (DCA). All participant benefit contributions that are made through payroll deductions should remain the same and they will continue to be remitted for payment in response to Conference billed invoices.
Will the waiver impact the W-2 of clergy and laity?
The W-2s for clergy and laity will not be impacted by this waiver, because benefit related payroll deductions will continue to be made for all participants.
How will the waiver be applied to a local church that uses the Conference Plan to extend medical benefits to laity employees?
Laity premiums are at the sole discretion of each salary-paying unit (the local church). The laity premiums invoiced by the Conference will be reduced by $860/month to provide the same relief as that provided by the clergy premium waiver.