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Financial fitness in times of trouble: Top Tips

During times of trouble, it’s even more difficult to stay on top of things financially.  We’re working to find good resources to help you navigate this journey. We’re keeping this page up to date with tips from financial professionals, links to articles, and videos.  And, we’re offering webinars weekly on a variety of financial fitness topics, as well.

Key tips to keep in mind, from financial advisors:

During times of crisis and market volatility like we are experiencing:

  • Keep emotions in check when making financial decisions during times of market volatility
  • Plan for the “long haul” or “big picture” rather than reacting to the immediate situation
  • Have a plan and keep saving towards your future goals, including retirement
  • Talk to a financial advisor.  All vendors (AIG, Fidelity, TIAA, and Voya) are available for virtual meetings (phone, video, etc.)
  • Establish an emergency fund

COVID-19 Financial Resources available in your community

Your local United Way has developed Covid 19 Resource pages that include ways to get help and ways to give help in your county:

ARTICLE 4/27/2020:

The Wall Street Journal published this article about not panicking during times of market volatility.

VIDEO 4/27/2020:

Watch “Manage Unexpected Events and Expenses” from the Fidelity resource center.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

Due to COVID-19, TexFlex has made some updates to their plans. Employees now have an additional 90 days (or 180 days from the date of the card purchase) to provide documentation to WageWorks. Please note that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that WageWorks verify all debit card charges are for eligible expenses. With this change, employees now have more time to submit documentation.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows for the following changes to flexible spending accounts (FSA):

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines no longer require a doctor’s prescription in order to be paid for or reimbursed through an FSA. Employees that are enrolled in the Health HSA plan can now use the plan to pay for OTC items without having to see a doctor for a prescription. This guideline is effectively immediately and retroactive to January 1, 2020.
  • Menstrual care products are now eligible to be paid for or reimbursed through an FSA, HRA or HSA. Employees that are enrolled in the Health FSAs can use the plan to pay for menstrual care products as the products are now considered as qualified expenses. This guideline is effectively immediately and retroactive to January 1, 2020.

Commuter Spending Accounts (CSA)

If your daily commute is impacted by these actions and you experience reduced or eliminated daily commute expenses, you should consider reviewing your commuter spending account (CSA) contributions to make sure your election still fits your needs. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you review your CSA account and election options:

  • The TexFlex CSA is a month-to-month program. This means you can change your contribution amount or disenroll from the program at any time. Elections must be made by the last business day of the month so the monthly contribution can be deducted the following pay period. Example: Changes made by April 30 are processed by May 31 and are deducted from your June 1 paycheck. 
  • Excess balances over $3 carry over month-to-month and you can use funds as long as you are actively employed. Balances of $3 or less will be forfeited.
  • The IRS limits commuter reimbursement to $270 per month regardless of your account balance. Any unused amount exceeding $3 will carryover each month.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at HRBenefits@untsystem.edu.

The Emergency Family Medical Leave Act (FML) Extension went into effect April 1. For all employees reporting a leave related to your inability to work or telecommute due to a need to care for a child under 18 years of age if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of your child is unavailable, due to the public health emergency, please go to FMLASource’s website at www.fmlasource.com.  You will be required to register on the site first before applying if you’ve never before applied for FML. You will need to create a USERID and password. Once registered, select the “add a new leave,” and then follow the process and submit the following:

  • Reason for leave – Please select “Sick or Injured family member”
  • Type of medical condition – Please select “Other”
  • Select child under the age of 18
  • Enter Emergency FMLA in the comment box
  • Skip through the remaining options until you reach type of leave
  • Type of leave / leave duration – Select continuous, intermittent or reduced
  • Submit the request
  • FMLASource will change the leave to Emergency FMLA
  • A request for leave notification will be sent out to the employee and immediate supervisor with an Emergency FMLA document attached requesting information for the emergency leave. That document is to be sent back to FMLASource by either fax at 877-309-0218 or email to fmlacenter@fmlasource.com with the subject line titled “Families First Document.”
  • No other medical certification is needed.

Please keep in mind that the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act is an extension of the traditional FMLA. Leave taken under EFMLEA deducts from your 12-week FMLA entitlement. The first 10 days are unpaid unless you elect to use the emergency paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or other form of paid leave.

Last week, an email from name@district-benefits.com was sent to numerous people regarding scheduling benefit-related appointments. The subject line indicated “TRS Review for UNT Employees” and the greeting started with “Employee Name” (Dear Employee John Doe). This email was a spam/marketing ploy.

Thankfully, cautious individuals immediately notified their HR Benefits coordinators! They noticed that the email was from a “.com” domain and that “district-benefits” looked odd. These employees have a great eye for detail and knew that: 

  • Emails related to official UNT business do not come from a “.com” domain. 
  • TRS sends email from its “.gov” domain – never a “.com”.
  • Anything related to your retirement benefits and meeting about them would come from HRBenefits@untsystem.edu. If you have questions about your retirement, please email us!

Check out IT Shared Services Information Security page.  Learn more about how to watch out for spam, identify phishing emails, and how to be cyber safe! If you receive suspicious email – notify security@untsystem.edu asap. Email HRBenefits@untsystem.edu with questions about your benefits and to schedule a virtual appointment to discuss your retirement. 

Other helpful links:

TRS
ERS

The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth continues to be a leader for Tarrant County during the COVID-19 pandemic by launching a new website and messaging campaign called DAY x DAY.

The website’s mission is to create a series of hopeful, positive messages about the crisis. HSC partnered with Fort Worth-based advertising/marketing firm Schaefer to spearhead the initiative, with the goal of changing perceptions and attitudes regarding the pandemic. While its target audience is Fort Worth and the city’s surrounding areas, the website intends to be a statewide resource.

DAY x DAY’s daily content includes tips on how to navigate the crisis, features about COVID heroes, input from health experts, as well as numerous opportunities to stay on top of the latest news.

For more information, visit: https://coviddayxday.com/.

 

 

 

 

The Employees Retirement System of Texas and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) are committed to giving you the help and resources you need related to coronavirus and COVID-19.

We are pleased to announce a new resource for coronavirus-related health concerns for HealthSelectSM participants. In addition to virtual visits, you now have the option to speak with a trained Catapult Nurse Practitioner about COVID-19.

How it works

  • Visit your secure participant portal at www.ERSassist.com and type the word “support” in the password field.
  • Here you can find daily updated information about COVID-19 along with links to resources across Texas, like coronavirus testing sites.
  • If you have specific health concerns and would like to speak with a nurse practitioner, simply click on the “Speak to a Nurse Practitioner” button and fill out the online form on the next page.
  • A nurse practitioner will call you back within 24 hours to discuss your health concerns or any symptoms you or a family member may be having, and recommend any follow-up treatment, if needed.

Participants must be 18 or older to request a consultation. All HealthSelect participants can request to speak, by phone, with a Catapult Nurse Practitioner at no cost.

Depending on your situation at time of the consultation, you may be directed to follow-up with your primary care provider, or seek care at an urgent care center or hospital. If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, stop and call 911.

Visit www.ERSassist.com for more information (don’t forget to type “support” in the password field for access).

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 resources or your HealthSelect benefits, call a BCBSTX Personal Health Assistant toll-free at (800) 252-8039, Monday - Friday 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. CT.

 

In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, there has been a surge in unemployment claims to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). This means that employers are now faced with the challenge of quickly gathering information before decision deadlines for every employee who files a claim.

Question: Why are my employees filing for unemployment if they are still active?
Answer: Anyone is welcome to apply for unemployment benefits regardless if they are active or terminated. 

Q: Should I submit a termination ePAR for my employee who filed a claim to make sure they are considered eligible?
A: No termination ePARs should be submitted for active employees solely because they filed a claim. There are numerous reasons a person can file a claim, but only TWC can determine the eligibility of the applicants. 

Q: Are my student workers eligible for unemployment benefits?
A: All employees are able to apply for unemployment benefits. Only TWC can determine eligibility. 

Q: What can I expect from the HR Records Team?
A: The HR Records Team works to effectively communicate with the dePARtments and the Campus HR teams in order to gather as much information and documentation as possible. They will make all efforts to submit information for each claim in an efficient and timely manner prior to the decision deadline.

For other questions, please contact HRRecords@untsystem.edu.

Thank you for your resolve and commitment as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter your role and institution, UNT System Human Resources is here for you and remains committed to supporting faculty and staff across UNT World.

For critical HR information and guidance related to current circumstances, please continue to visit the UNTSystem.edu/covid-19. Direct links to HR resources on the site are provided below:

These are unusual and challenging times, but we can help each other reach the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting one another and showing compassion. If you or your family need additional support, UNT System HR encourages you to consult our free, confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – available to help employees at all UNT System locations with stress, depression, family, legal or financial issues, substance abuse or other stressful events. EAP programs are available to retirement-eligible employees, their household members and dependents.

In addition, we have launched In the Green: UNT World Well-Being to help faculty and staff from UNT, UNT Health Science Center, UNT Dallas and UNT System Administration live their best lives. Whether navigating day-to-day challenges in “normal” times, or working through the unique circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has produced, we believe the health and wellness of our employees is critical to their success – both personally and professionally.