Fostering affordability within our community
The Affordability Task Force (ATF), established in fall 2018 as part of the university’s long-range vision process, is now concluding work to develop recommendations that address some of our regional affordability challenges.
Even before a comprehensive set of recommendations is considered by university leadership during winter quarter, we can share that several new benefits are launching in upcoming months.
“As our Task Force gathered input, we identified that our recommendations for solutions cannot be ‘one size fits all,’ even within a particular stakeholder community,” says Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources and chair of the ATF. “We are grateful that we are able to introduce several meaningful benefits programs in early 2020 to help relieve some of the financial stress and family care challenges we heard about, and we look forward to doing even more for the entire Stanford community.”
Five benefits enhancements for faculty and staff take effect in 2020:
If you need to take a family leave in 2020 to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child, Stanford’s Family Temporary Disability (FTD) benefit now includes six weeks of leave at 100% of base pay for benefits-eligible employees.
Previously, the six weeks of FTD was partially paid through short-term disability insurance; you would receive 60-70% of your pay, up to a weekly maximum, and then could elect to use your PTO or accrued vacation to make up the difference. Moving forward, disability insurance will continue to provide 60-70% of your pay while on leave, up to the weekly maximum, but Stanford will supplement your disability pay without requiring you to use PTO or vacation time. This program was negotiated as part of the 2019 SEIU contract negotiations, and was also recommended to be adopted for all employees by the ATF. The Administrative Guide Memo 2.3.5: Disability and Family Leaves, is being amended to reflect this change as it applies to FTD leaves with a start date of Jan. 1, 2020, or after.
Because federal law (FMLA) and California law (CFRA) provide for 12 weeks of job-protected leave during a rolling 12-month period, once you’ve used your six-week paid leave benefit, you can request up to six weeks of additional leave time without paid disability benefits, though you can use PTO and accrued vacation time for salary continuation during that time.
Stanford employees living in states other than California may also be eligible for paid family leave. Stanford currently follows state-specific rules for disability pay and length of leave allowed for employees who live in District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state.
Starting Feb. 3, 2020, if you are age 59-½, you can make a one-time request for an in-service withdrawal from your CRA, even if you are working full time. Previously, you could only request a withdrawal from the CRA at age 59-½ if you worked 50% or less in a non-tenured position. The withdrawal is limited to a portion of your employee contributions and related earnings; university contributions are not eligible for the withdrawal. All distributions are subject to federal and state income taxes. As is the case with all distribution requests, the process can take up to six weeks and is subject to approval by Stanford’s Retirement Savings program. Cardinal at Work will provide information about the new request process when the program launches.
Note: The CRA is the component of the Stanford Contributory Retirement Program (SCRP) available to benefits-eligible employees after one year of service. The SCRP account that does not include a university contribution – the Tax Deferred Account – already allows for in-service withdrawals for employees who are age 59-½ and still working.
Starting in the 2020 medical plan year, the eligibility for the Medical Contribution Assistance Program (MCAP) was expanded to include employees whose federal household adjusted gross income (AGI) is $100,000 or less on their most recent tax return. Previously, the family federal AGI had to be under $77,000 to qualify. Through MCAP, Stanford may lower the amount you pay to cover your dependents in a university-sponsored medical plan. This change was negotiated as part of the 2019 SEIU contract negotiations, and was also recommended to be adopted for all employees by the ATF.
To date, the change in eligibility has led to participation increasing by 50% over last year. The annual application process before Open Enrollment has closed, but if you are a new hire or experience a qualified life event that will make you eligible for MCAP mid-year, you can download the application from Cardinal at Work and submit it when enrolling in or changing benefits.
Starting in January 2020, the number of back-up care days is increasing to provide 10 days of back-up care for children and adults or elder relatives through Bright Horizons. Previously, the benefit allowed benefits-eligible staff to use five days per calendar year. This program was negotiated as part of the 2019 SEIU contract negotiations, and was also recommended to be adopted for all employees by the ATF.
Registering with Bright Horizons is free, and when your regular child care or adult/elder care arrangements are unavailable, you can arrange for temporary center-based care or in-home dependent care for a small co-pay.
If your family experiences financial distress and you need a short-term solution, you may become eligible for a non-taxable grant from the university starting in 2020. Stanford Benefits is preparing to launch a need-based fund administered by a third-party non-profit that will distribute disaster and hardship grants based on eligibility requirements and aid levels set by the university. The goal is to establish a program that can react relatively quickly to those needing help. Cardinal at Work will provide information about requirements and how to apply when the program launches.
As additional solutions move toward implementation, you can expect to hear more from the ATF and the offices responsible for planning and executing new programs and services that are targeted to move forward. The ATF expects that programs, plans and services will be announced between now and FY21.
View the ATF progress timeline and recent affordability articles on the Our Vision website. Once recommendations are ready for communication, the Our Vision website will have full descriptions.