COVID-19 Updates for Staff
Items of Interest on CCU Webpage
There are several places where information can be found on the CCU website. Here are some of the links that may be of value:
- Covid-19 Advisory Page - https://www.coastal.edu/services/safety_and_security/covid-19/
- Covid-19 FAQs - https://www.coastal.edu/chantsafe/covid-19faqs/
- Human Resources Covid-19 – https://www.coastal.edu/hreo/covid-19/
- Community Resources for affected staff - https://www.coastal.edu/sai/singlestop/community/
Links to Past Town Halls :
- Town Hall April 16
- Town Hall April 22
- Town Hall May 1
- Town Hall May 5
- Town Hall May 12
- Town Hall May 21
- Town Hall June 09
- Staff Senate Open Forum July 14 [Summary Notes]
- Town Hall July 16
- Town Hall July 28
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVOTeXq6tX8&feature=youtu.be [Annotated Notes]
- Town Hall August 10
Questions from Staff with responses from Administration
Working through Covid-19 (Operations):
- Establishment of essential/non-essential personnel: We understand this was done by area supervisors, but will these designations be revisited, and if so, at what point?
05-15-20: Designations have been revisited and are continually being reviewed and adjusted depending on operating status of the University. As the university shifts into summer operations, a number of updates have been made. As we begin to shift into Fall operations, those designations will be re-evaluated. Your direct supervisor is the best source of information as to your current status at any given moment.
- Summer Hours: Will we be working summer hours this year? I did look at HR’s page and it’s listed but, I’m not sure if the hours will be implemented.
05-15-20: Yes, Summer Hours have already been emailed out to the University Community.
07-01-20: Summer hours have been rescinded to facilitate furlough payroll scheduling.
- Return to normal operations: Any known end date for returning to normal operations?
05-15-20: With the nature of this situation, there is not a known date to return to normal operations. As the entire nation is experiencing, guidance from the state and national authorities will mainly serve as the entities to provide insight into any return to normal operations. As the President has announced, it is the intention to reopen for in-person classes in the fall. However, at any point that the Governor keeps the executive order active to close schools, we will be following that order.
07-01-20: Employees will begin returning to work as of 07-16-20 with anticipation of full return to normal operations by 08-01-20. Anyone needing to make childcare arrangements should do so now. If you have interest in CCU's Child Development and Literacy Center, please contact Dr. Ed Jadallah in the College of Education.
- August re-opening: Can we get a clarification on the return to work in August and from an office hours/ advising aspect meeting with students 1 on 1 while maintaining social distancing is not going to be possible as many offices are not large enough to distance 6ft. When will we have an update on those types of plans and situations?
05-15-20: The Emergency Management Team has been tasked by Dr. DeCenzo to create the re-opening and operational plan for the fall 2020 semester. All factors are being considered and the plan will be shared with the University. Keep in mind that the guidance and plan will change as the situation changes.
07-01-20: The Coastal Comeback plan is now available on the website at https://www.coastal.edu/services/safety_and_security/covid-19/coastalcomeback/ This site will continue to be updated as conditions and directives change.
- Milestone Celebrations: Has there been any discussion on the staff events (Retirement Reception, State Service Awards, etc) that had to be cancelled will be handled to make up to those that would have been honored?
05-15-20: There are no current plans to have these events now, but there will be a time scheduled for the community to celebration these milestones. These will most likely be included in the 2021 events.
- Hackler re-opening: What are the possibilities of the Hackler Golf Course opening back up? Clemson has opened theirs, and it would be an opportunity to earn some revenue, and possibly more importantly, get a much-needed win in the journey to re-open the campus.
05-15-20: Hackler Golf Course is working to reopen with COVID-19 precautions. Anticipated reopening day is Monday, May 18.
- Opportunities to work: For those employees whose jobs are such that their work cannot be done remotely and/or are deemed non-essential, are there any plans to allow such employees to do any work that does become available? This came from observations that there were student workers on campus working, and the idea that employees using leave time should get the opportunity to do any available work before student workers are used for those tasks.
05-15-20: Yes, there is thought that employees could be used for other tasks and this is being included in future evaluations. However, in some cases, the student employees are trained for specific tasks and will be utilized for those tasks, where the task is critical to current operations.
- Work hours and reporting: There are a number of questions in this area related to guidance employees are receiving from HR as well as their individual supervisor. Can you please explain the difference between the spreadsheet reporting for Division of State Human Resources and hours reporting for payroll? What are their uses and how do they differ? Also, there seems to be wide variance in payroll reporting guidance around what constitutes working from home. Some people are being told that if they are available to work and able to complete their tasks from home, then they are working from home their 7.5-hour day. Others are being told to log only the actual minutes they spend performing some task, and to take leave time for the balance. This is a significant difference in guidance for like-type circumstances, so we were looking for some clarification.
05-15-20: The spreadsheet for the Division of State Human Resources is for tracking the number of employees that are working on campus, working from away (home), or on leave for each day. This spreadsheet is being completed by Executive Council members, or their designee. Hours that are reported for payroll should be done in WebAdvisor or the approved method that has been used regularly. Payroll reporting has not changed. There are some areas that have employees tracking their hours worked and tasked worked on in more detail.
- Hazard Pay: Will there be hazard pay for those employees required to physically come to work, similar to what is done during hurricanes?
05-15-20: There is not a plan for hazard pay at this time. If this changes, the University community will be notified.
- Remote Work (telecommuting): For those staff members who have successfully been working remotely from home, will there be an opportunity to continue allowing remote hours with supervisor permission once campus returns to normal operations?
07-15-20: Please contact your area Executive Council member to discuss your interest in the potential for remote work arrangements. Executive Council members are gathering information now to inform plans for such an arrangement. Arrangements are likely to be specific to job functions and departmental needs.
- Can you address how retirement/insurance coverage applies for volunteered furlough days?
- Still awaiting details...
- When do we anticipate guidelines for forwarding/away from office for furlough days? Additionally, is there any kind of contact tree or escalation process when we can’t reach people on campus?
- 07-15-20: Please work directly with your supervisor to determine the most effective method for information flow during staff furlough days
- Is there only 1 furlough day for people who make between $33,101 and $33,600?
- 07-15-20: Correct, per the chart sent out by HR.
- Would you be able to tell me if the employees of the BC CMWS Environmental Quality Lab would be exempt from the mandatory furlough? The positions are Non-FTE research grant positions, however the funding source is from contracts with the local counties and municipalities to conduct water quality monitoring, sampling and analysis. My understanding is that the funds originate from local public dollars collected from stormwater utility fees. Each employee’s salary is funded 100% by these contracts.
- 07-15-20: This question should be asked to HR Benefits, but the language in the announcement seems to indicate that they would be included unless the contract specifically forbids such an action.
- If approved to take the entire 20 days furlough in the month of July will I be able to apply to receive unemployment? Also, if I request to take the entire 20 days together and approved can I change my mind or is this final?
- 07-15-20: This question should be asked to HR Benefits, but our understanding is yes, you would be eligible for unemployment. Individuals are encouraged to immediately speak with their supervisors and HR. Our understanding is that the supplemented federal unemployment is good through July 31st.
- If I choose to be off in July do I or how do I pay my insurance premiums - I would still have insurance wouldn’t I? I would like the issue of health insurance payments to be clarified. In reading the Furlough Plan, it wasn’t clear. Will the employee will be responsible for paying the university the employee portion of our health insurance, if we take the 20 day furlough all at once in the month of July? Also, it reads as if the university will contribute both the employer and employee portion to the employee’s retirement fund. Does that include employees who take the 20 days all at one time?
- 07-15-20: The specificity of these questions should be directed to HR, they will be able to assist you in getting answers to your specific circumstances. Generally, the university is obliged to pay all payments for benefits that are shared payments (both employer and employee contributions), but the employee is responsible for any payments that are solely the employee’s responsibility. How this will actually work in one’s paycheck is a question for HR and payroll.
- Reduction-in-Force (RIF): Do we have any kind of RIF notification timeline?
07-16-20: Phase 2 of cost-saving measures, including the Voluntary Separation Program (VSP), Retirement Incentive Program (RIP), and staff Reduction-in-Force (RIF) have been completed.
Working through Covid-19 (Benefits and Employee support):
- Access to Leave: There are a number of programs related to leave, including using sick leave, leave pools, and emergency leave advances. While HR does have a good deal of information available, there are still a number of questions surrounding how to access these programs. The questions largely center on how to access the leave pool and more so on the emergency leave advance program. There is confusion over what would qualify for a sick leave advance, the form seems to indicate that you must actually be sick from Covid-19, but guidance in other forums has indicated that this shutdown is sufficient. We are asking for some clarification on these points. This may be a messaging issue, as many perceive that they are borrowing sick leave from the future and that this leave can be used in the same way their current sick leave is being used to fill missing work hours. Some additional feedback: We are getting reports that people are attempting to donate leave to those without, which is indicated as a possibility on the leave donation form, but that there seem to be issues with this not working as one would perceive it to work (ie the recipient can’t actually get leave donated to them in that fashion)
05-15-20: See the updated HREO COVID-19 Page ( https://www.coastal.edu/hreo/covid-19/). There are now FAQs for both employees and supervisors. For specific questions regarding eligibility for donating or for application to receive the emergency or donated leave contact the benefits office. Please note that each leave pool has its own criteria for the circumstances in which it can be accessed. Please contact Lori Cox in Human Resources if you have specific questions about your particular circumstances.
- COVID-19 Leave: Can we please get some additional information on how that additional leave is being integrated into employees’ leave, how it is reported out, and how employees’ leave reporting choices affect the use of specific leave pools? There are also questions around what will happen to that leave later; other state and county agencies are indicating that it will be paid out to employees.
Still awaiting details...
- Supporting Staff going without pay: Can we get a scope of the number of staff members going without pay as of the most recent pay cycle? Staff Senate is working on developing a fundraising push to drive donations to the benevolence fund, which can then be accessed by staff going without pay. What we don’t know is how many people are in this position (ie have exhausted all other paid leave options). Also, can you please clarify if someone in a Leave Without Pay status qualifies for unemployment benefits? The number of staff members on a leave without pay status is constantly changing and not easily reportable. Staff Senate should continue to help promote donations to the benevolence funds.
05-15-20: Eligibility for unemployment is specific to each individual employee’s classification, leave status, and other determining factors. Employees should reference the University’s HREO policies and/or contact the benefits office regarding their ability to apply for unemployment.
- Presidential Search: At the staff town hall it was conveyed that the Presidential Search is intended to wrap up June/July 2020 with a new president installed at that time, is that still the plan? We are hearing from a number of individuals that have concerns about a) a transition of leadership during a crisis, and b) the wisdom of paying two presidents while we are laying off staff, as Dr. DeCenzo’s contract runs through June 2021.
05-15-20: The Presidential Search is currently on hold as explained by Dr. DeCenzo in the Staff Town Hall- April 8 (Click Here for Vimeo Live).
- Quarantine Procedures: What is the procedure when someone at work gets quarantined? If I’m told that I have to quarantine, can I work remotely? How does this work?
07-15-20: The Coastal Comeback plan (https://www.coastal.edu/services/safety_and_security/covid-19/coastalcomeback/) addresses this and many other issues related to working during COVID-19. The specific quarantine procedures are found in the departmental guide.
- Staff Town Hall: We have heard from several people inquiring as to whether more, and regular, town halls are in the works. Even if we are just updating existing information, there is a strong desire to stay connected and up to date with developments and decisions related to a host of topics.
05-15-20: Weekly updates are being sent out by the Office of the President along with multiple types of town halls. The plan is to continue holding Faculty/Staff town halls every other week.
- Continued Communication: Due to the lack of information at the beginning when campus was suddenly closed and the slow drip of communication to staff in the days since, tensions are high, employees are stressed, and morale is very, very low. What will be done to raise morale in the days going forward and after we begin to get closer to the normalcy of working on campus?
05-15-20: Additional communications will be coming out of the Office of the President as well as the Staff Senate to help increase the amount of communication. We understand that this is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone, and we are working to provide more support and communication than was present prior.
- Cost-Cutting Committee: The faculty are forming a reduction-in-force committee to determine the appropriate areas to cut, is there any intention to have similar staff involvement in reduction areas?
05-15-20: As announced, there has been a campus-wide cost-saving committee formed. The makeup of that committee will be forthcoming, and we encourage everyone to continue to supply their cost-saving ideas to the committee through the link (Budget Suggestion Form).
- Reduction-In-Force: At the last town hall we were told that a RIF plan has been sent to the state for review. We understand that it still requires approval by the state, but we would like to be able to see this plan. Dr. DeCenzo indicated that it was his desire to share the plan with the staff before it became public (https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/article242094031.html), and so we are requesting to see the plan. If there is any personal information, we understand that would be excluded, but the RIF plan calls for competitive groups and reductions levels, this is the information we are asking for.
05-15-20: This article references a plan for furloughs and early retirements. The Retirement Incentive Plan (RIP) has been released to the campus. The plan that was submitted was a request to explore furloughs as a cost-saving option moving forward. There is not a plan that includes any information about departments or groups. That would be explored if we receive the permission to fully explore. However, there has not been a RIF (reduction in force) plan submitted. From looking at the article, I am not seeing that they referenced a RIF plan. Please note that furloughs and a RIF plan are two very different concepts.
- Budget Outlook: Following the last budget town hall, we are seeking some additional clarity regarding the university’s financial situation. In order to plan for reductions in staffing, there must be a target number the administration is using to determine the necessary size of cuts. What is that number? CFO Frost laid out numbers from $9M to $36M, but there must be some target that incorporates all the potential revenue reductions (enrollments, retention, penny tax, fundraising and endowment earnings, conference distributions, etc).
05-15-20: These numbers are still being developed and will be shared with the University Community once fully developed.
- Cost-saving measures (Leadership): Other universities’ leadership teams are taking voluntary pay reductions to preserve resources in an attempt to minimize layoffs, has our leadership team considered such actions? Other suggestions include rescinding the $2,000 increase employees earning over $100k received this summer related to the state pay raise that excluded employees over $100k.
05-15-20: This is being considered and evaluated. As President DeCenzo has stated, there are no areas that are off limits.
- Cost-saving measures (Staff): There have been ideas of a mandatory, across the board pay reduction floated. Instead of a pay reduction what about a “Mandatory” donation to the university through payroll deduction. This would also provide a tax deduction lessening the pain of the pay cut.
05-15-20: This suggestion has been included in the cost-saving options to be reviewed.
- Cost-saving measures (Suggestions): A number of staff have inquired about the idea to set up a Budget Cut Suggestions mechanism. Staff have ideas about where to save money, ideas that may not be identified by senior administrators, and would like a mechanism to suggest those areas.
05-15-20: This has been set up. Please submit your suggestions at this link (Budget Suggestion Form).
- Professional Development programs: A number of staff participating in tuition remission programs, both CCU courses and Graduate Studies programs, are asking about the effect of furloughs/layoffs on the clauses that mandate repayment of these reimbursements. Can someone please provide some clarity on an employee’s obligation in the event of involuntary loss of income?
05-15-20: Communication regarding the updates to the employee tuition assistance programs have been sent out to all affected employees, as well as revised policies placed on the www.coastal.edu/policies page. The CCU Tuition Waiver program has been amended to include some limitations on the total quantity of courses that can be taken in a given year, and the Graduate Tuition Reimbursement program has been eliminated. Anyone with questions about how these changes affect their specific circumstances can contact Carlos Johnson for more information.
- Cost-saving measures (faculty): Are there any plans to revisit faculty summer compensation plans in lieu of personnel cuts when the university acknowledges reduction of revenue from summer due to all courses being offered at the in-state rate due to an all-online summer?
05-15-20: All options are being explored and this has been included in the cost-saving suggestions.
- CARES Act funds: Who is making the decision regarding how the University will use the CARES Act money within the guidance of the Federal Government? Is it executive council or is there consideration of a Task Force being put together?
05-15-20: A task force has been created and communication has been sent out to all students that were enrolled in Spring 2020 classes regarding their status and if they received funds. Financial Aid has created a CARES Act FAQ (insert link here).
- Financial decision-making: Can we see what pay increases have been approved over the past few weeks and what new hires have been approved in coaching staff?
05-15-20: Specific information is not available to be shared. Dr. DeCenzo did mention in our Staff Senate meeting that necessary new hires and pay increases were approved prior to the COVID-19 event’s affect to the University.
- Faculty/Staff Parking Refunds: Will the staff be receiving parking refunds like the students are receiving, given similar inability to utilize the service? Faculty/Staff Meal plans? Are we considering just pushing the credits forward?
05-15-20: This is not being considered at this time.
07-01-20: In recognition of the necessary response to COVID-19 in Spring 2020 and the adjustments to the 2020-2021 academic calendar still being developed, I have requested and received approval to reduce the cost of 2020-2021 faculty and staff barcodes to from $75 to $60. Rather than going back to 2019-2020 to issue credits, it is my hope this reduction will benefit the largest possible group of faculty and staff who choose to purchase a barcode for the year ahead.
The Department of Public Safety and Financial Services will be working through the necessary steps to change the email announcements informing faculty and staff barcodes are for sale and adjusting the charges on the back end. If any faculty or staff member has already purchased a 2020-2021 barcode and was charged $75, a credit will be issued as soon as possible. At this time, I cannot give you a strict timeline for when that limited number of refunds will be issued. The same colleagues working resolving those charges are currently focused on supporting our new and continuing students as Fall 2020 bills go live.