|Guides help flooding victims recover from financial loss, plan ahead
The recent flooding that devastated Colorado communities was a striking reminder of the physical destruction and harm caused by natural disasters. The financial toll for individuals is often less apparent, but no less devastating.Those affected by floods may have a difficult time recovering financially. Some may be unsure what steps to take next. That’s where the free booklet “Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues” can provide help.
It outlines steps to regain financial stability that must be addressed immediately – and in the weeks and months following a disaster. This collaboration between the National Endowment for Financial Education, the AICPA Foundation and the American Red Cross outlines:
Preparing for the future
The state’s recent floods, forest fires and other disasters may have some thinking about how to prepare and mitigate the effects of a disaster. That’s where the companion guide “Disasters and Financial Planning: A Guide for Preparedness” can prove helpful.
The booklet details measures to help families avoid a financial crisis in the event of a disaster. Topics include:
From Employee Services:
University of Colorado employees on all four campuses had their lives disrupted by the recent flooding.
Understanding that the recovery process can be long, difficult and trying, Employee Services and the CU Health and Wellness Trust have arranged to make the following services available to employees whose lives were directly affected by these natural disasters.
Faculty Housing Assistance Program loan options available
Full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members who own homes damaged in the recent floods, who have equity in their homes and who plan to take out home equity loans to make their homes habitable after storm damage, may qualify for Faculty Housing Assistance Program loans from the university.
Such faculty members would need to apply at https://www.cu.edu/content/faculty-housing-assistance-program, use the university’s approved financial institution for their new first mortgages and provide documentation of the losses suffered. General information about the Program can be found at https://www.cusys.edu/academicaffairs/documents/FHAP-description.pdf.
Faculty members with existing shared-appreciation loans through the university’s Faculty Housing Assistance Program should contact the Treasurer’s Office, 303-837-2182 or https://www.cu.edu/treasurer, if making major repairs or improvements due to the recent floods. If expenditures qualify as capital improvements, these expenditures could reduce the amount owed to the university when the existing loans are repaid.
Enrollment extended for all benefits
Understanding that many employees were in the midst of their benefits enrollment period when the flooding occurred, the university has arranged an enrollment extension for all benefits.
- Medical and dental plans: CU has the authority to authorize late enrollment on Medical and Dental plans.
- Life and disability insurance plans: University staff is writing an amendment to CU’s contract that will allow an enrollment extension for optional life insurance, voluntary life and short-term disability plans. This amendment was authorized by Standard Insurance Co.
- FSA plans: The IRS will allow late enrollment as long as the university clearly designates the circumstances under which an extension is allowed, a specific time period this will be allowed, and applies the extension fairly and consistently to all employees.
- PERA: University staff will work directly with PERA’s legal team to advocate for employees, if the situation arises.
Accommodations for using CU Health Plans
Employees directly affected by the floods and enrolled in health plans administered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield may take advantage of the following services:
- Extending filing claim deadlines.
- Suspending early refill limits for prescriptions.
- Authorizing payment to replace covered Durable Medical Equipment supplies for affected employees who call to request them.
- Providing member access to a 24-hour Nurse Helpline.
- Allowing employees to see any physician necessary to provide access to covered care.
- Offering 24-hour, free telephone counseling and referral services through Anthem’s Employee Assistance Program. This phone number can be found on the back of the member’s identification card or by calling 1-877-208-8240.
These medical and pharmacy guidelines are effective for the next 30 days. For additional questions, members should call the phone number on the back of their membership card. If employees do not have their card or need replacement cards, call 1-800-735-6072.
As of Sept. 16, all Kaiser Permanente medical offices are open in Colorado to serve CU Health Plan members. Additional resources:
- Call the Kaiser Permanente 24-hour medical advice line at 303-338-4545.
- Email your doctor on kp.org.
- For behavioral health appointments, call 303-471-7700. For more information, go to kp.org and search “grief” or “depression.”
Distributions from Pension and Savings plans
Several university pension and savings plans allow for plan loans or hardship distributions, which may be helpful as employees rebuild and repair.
University of Colorado 403(b) Plan
Plan Loans are available only from annuity contracts with TIAA-CREF, MetLife or VALIC, under the following terms and conditions:
- The total of all outstanding 403(b) Plan loans cannot exceed the lesser of: $50,000, less the highest balance of any plan loan not with the university over the past one-year period; or the greater of one-half of the present value of the employee’s plan account balance, or $10,000.
- Repayment shall be in regular intervals no less frequent than quarterly, over a term not exceeding five years (unless purchasing a principal residence).
- Interest shall be applied at a commercially reasonable rate.
Hardship distributions are available under the following terms and conditions:
- If used to repair damage to the principal residence or for medical expenses for the employee, spouse, dependent or designated plan beneficiary, purchase of a principal residence, college tuition and fees for employee, spouse, dependent or beneficiary, to prevent eviction from or foreclosure on employee’s principal residence, or funeral expenses for parent, spouse, child, dependent or beneficiary.
- If there is an immediate and heavy need, defined as:
- The employee does not have sufficient funds of his/her own;
- All available plan loans and non-hardship distributions have been used;
- The distribution is not in excess of the amount of the immediate and heavy need (including tax and penalties resulting from the distribution); and
- The employee’s salary deferral contributions into the 403(b) Plan are suspended for at least six months after receipt of the hardship distribution.
Regular distributions are available if terminated from employment or if over age 59.5; employees should contact their investment vendor to begin the distribution process.
If an employee has made rollover contributions into the 403(b) Plan, such contributions are eligible for distribution at any time.
Please note that regular distributions, hardship distributions and a distribution of prior rollover contributions made into the plan are includable in income, and are subject to the 10 percent early withdrawal tax penalty if made to an active employee who is not yet age 59.5 or to a former employee who separated from service with the university prior to attaining age 55.
PERA 401(k) Plan
Plan loans are available under the PERA 401(k) Plan under terms and conditions similar to under the university’s 403(b) Plan discussed above.
Hardship withdrawals are available under the PERA 401(k) Plan under terms and conditions similar to under the university’s 403(b) Plan discussed.
Regular distributions are available if terminated from employment or if over age 59.5. For more information regarding available plan loans and distributions from the PERA 401(k) Plan, employees should contact PERA directly at 1-800-759-7372, because the university does not administer the PERA 401(k) Plan.
PERA 457 Plan
Plan loans are available under the PERA 457 Plan under terms and conditions similar to those under the university’s 403(b) Plan discussed above.
Hardship withdrawals (referred to as “unforeseeable emergency withdrawals”) are available under the PERA 457 Plan under terms and conditions similar to those under the university’s 403(b) Plan discussed above.
Regular distributions are available only if terminated from PERA employment. For more information regarding available plan loans and distributions from the PERA 457 Plan, employees should contact PERA directly at 1-800-759-7372, because the university does not administer the PERA 457 Plan.
If you have questions about using these services, please contact the Employee Services benefits professionals at 303-860-4200 or toll-free at 1-855-216-7740, and select option 3.