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Your Stanford benefits and the CARES Act

graphic of stars and "CARES Act"

By signing into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the federal government aims to provide emergency relief to individuals and businesses.

Below is a brief summary of how the legislation intersects with your individual Stanford benefits, as well as a reminder of existing Stanford programs for which you and your family may be eligible. 

Use of your retirement funds

If you, your spouse, or your dependent are diagnosed with COVID-19 or experience adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, furloughed, laid off, or having reduced working hours, the CARES Act allows you to:

  • Take a penalty-free Coronavirus Related Distribution from your Stanford Contributory Retirement Plan (SCRP), up to $100,000 or 100% of your balance; withdrawals are still taxed, but the taxes are spread over three years and the bill waives the ordinary 10% penalty for early withdrawal. You can pay back the distribution within three years if you want and your payback is not counted against annual contribution limits. This distribution is only available through Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Take a loan against your SCRP; the loan limit is increased from $50,000 to $100,000; if you already have an outstanding loan, your initial loan factors into your available amount for a second loan. This loan increase is only available until Sept. 23, 2020.
  • Postpone the repayment of a loan that is already outstanding, for up to a year; subsequent loan repayments will be adjusted to reflect the delay in 2020 and any interest accrued during the delay. 
  • Suspend your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your retirement accounts, which you would ordinarily start at age 72, when you stop working, and every year thereafter. The waiver applies to 2019 RMDs due April 1, 2020, and 2020 RMDs due by Dec. 31, 2020.

More details of these temporary measures can be found in the FAQ: Coronavirus Related Distribution & Loan Provisions. To initiate any of these actions, contact Fidelity to request the appropriate paperwork, which may require notarized spousal consent, if applicable. If your SCRP account is with TIAA, contact TIAA to transfer funds to Fidelity. Once your funds are transferred, Fidelity will assist you with your distribution or loan. Fidelity: 888-793-8733. TIAA: 800-842-2776.  

Changes to what you pay for certain health care needs 

The CARES Act expands what may be covered by your health plan, in response to the pandemic.

  • All testing and potential vaccines (or preventative services) for COVID-19 will be covered at no cost to patients, even if you are tested by a “non-network” provider.
  • If you are enrolled in the Healthcare + Savings plan, telehealth services related to COVID-19 through Dec. 31, 2020, are free and do not count toward your deductible, and can be used in lieu of visiting your provider in person for health issues not related to COVID-19. (Ordinarily, providing a free service invalidates the health plan as a true high-deductible plan and makes HSA contributions ineligible, but note that in this case, the law allows for these services to be free without disruption to your HSA eligibility.)
  • You may now use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to cover non-prescribed medical products such as Tylenol or Advil; the law adds menstrual products to the definition of “qualified medical expenses.” This is a repeal of the Affordable Care Act rule that prohibited paying for over-the-counter medicines with FSA or HSA dollars.

There is nothing you need to do at this time to enact these changes to the way your health benefits are administered.

Time away

Generally speaking, Stanford’s paid leave benefits exceed the CARES Act’s requirements for paid leave time, most of which pertain to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Read the COVID-19 Workplace Guide or talk to your Human Resources Manager for the latest guidance on how to use leave time if you need it, so that you fully understand how job protection and wage replacement may work in your situation.

When you can change your benefits 

As your family’s needs change, you may need to change your benefits. There are no changes at this time to the policies about when you can change benefits -- you must experience a “qualifying life event” and you have 31 days from the life event to change coverage -- but as a reminder, a spouse or dependent losing health insurance coverage elsewhere is considered a qualifying life event. 

Also, a change in dependent care cost or provider allows you to reduce your election to your dependent care flexible spending account. Note that if you receive a Child Care Subsidy Grant award, you will continue to receive the per-pay-period award amount even if you change your election.

To change your elections, log into My Benefits and select “Change Your Benefits.” 

Other Stanford help available

  • If your household income changes, review the eligibility for the Medical Contributions Assistance Program. If you qualify, Stanford will subsidize a portion of your contributions for your health care based on your family income level and the premiums of the lowest-cost plan. You can apply mid-year if you become eligible mid-year. Review program details and eligibility.
  • The Faculty Staff Help Center offers free professional and confidential counseling for individuals, couples and families, including bilingual counseling, to address both work and personal issues. The center is now operating remotely (request an appointment online).
  • Stanford continues to collaborate with Bright Horizons to offer 10 days of Back-Up Care (BUCA) to support benefits-eligible faculty and staff, including In Home Care and the new Crisis Care, which reimburses you up to $100 if you pay for care from your own personal network of friends, neighbors and family babysitters. 
  • Interim guidance on shelter-in-place stipends allows for employees who are working from home to have a portion of their home internet and personal cell phone expenses  reimbursed. Review the COVID-19 Workplace Guide for details.
Benefits & Rewards, Retirement