MANAGING THE RETURN TO THE OFFICE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
Although phase 2 of NY Forward permits offices to re-open, the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect employees is to continue telework policies as much as possible. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene states that there continues to be community transmission of COVID-19 in New York City (NYC), and a return to the office may result in an increase in cases. The four key actions to prevent COVID-19 transmission:
Stay home if sick: stay home if you are sick unless you are leaving for essential medical care (including testing) or other essential errands.
Physical distancing: stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
Wear a face covering: protect those around you. You can be contagious without symptoms and spread the disease when you cough, sneeze, or even talk. A face covering may help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Practice healthy hand hygiene: wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available; clean frequently touched surfaces regularly; cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve, not your hands.
Health Benefit CoverageExtended for COVID-19 Deaths
The City of New York has agreed that City health benefit coverage will be provided for 45 days to the families of a municipal worker who passes away due to the COVID-19 virus and who was receiving City health benefits. This benefit extension comes after labor unions, in working under the auspices of the Municipal Labor Committee, sought the financial assistance for families of members who die from COVID-related deaths. “Many of our members have made the ultimate sacrifice during this pandemic,” said President Gloria Middleton. “This will at least offer some transitional relief during a very difficult time.” The MLC is continuing discussions with the City, State and Federal governments so that additional assistance can be provided to the families of public employees who lost their lives serving the citizens of our City.
Mental Health Services to Help Deal with COVID-19
New York, with the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, and where mental health issues are going to be particularly acute. In fact, some are comparing the coronavirus-driven anxiety to the one that affected New Yorkers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. If you are having trouble coping during this coronavirus pandemic, please get help. New York City has set up a hotline for people experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression as a result of coronavirus.
Go to https://nycwell.cityofnewyork.us where you will be able to text, call or chat online with a mental health specialist. You can also seek assistance by visiting HCAMS at unionsupport.org (or by calling 888.828.7826) or FHEHealth at fhehealth.com (or by calling 888.613.5321). This is a difficult and scary time we are all living through. If you need assistance and need to speak to someone, please do not be ashamed to reach out for help.
NYCERS has published a COVID-19 FAQs page on their website at https://www.nycers.org/covid-19 to keep members, retirees, and others informed about temporary changes to procedures that make it easier to conduct business with NYCERS during the pandemic. They also developed a Fact Sheet (#745)with instructions on how to complete Form #204, Power of Attorney. The Pension Outreach Programs team is available to conduct pension seminars via telephone or Skype, using the Basic Tier 4 and Tier 6 seminar booklets that are available online. The Comprehensive Pre-Retirement Planning Seminar Booklet for members enrolled in the 62/5, 55/25 and 57/5 retirement plans is also available on the NYCERS website. This booklet is a useful resource for members in these plans who are planning to retire.
Members are encouraged to sign-up for a MyNYCERS account so you can conduct business with NYCERS online. Call Center Representatives are also available at 347.643.3000 to answer questions. You can schedule phone consultations. When you are ready to retire, you can log in to www.mynycers.org and submit your service retirement application online rather than by mail or fax. You will then receive your option letter through your MyNYCERS account.
Childcare Services for Families of Essential Staff
at Regional Enrichment Centers
As part of the City's response to COVID-19, schools have been closed and all non-essential staff have been asked to work from home. For those essential staff who continue to report to work in-person, the City is making childcare services available to you and your family to support the vital work that you do in keeping low-income New Yorkers sheltered and connected to benefits and services. To help essential staff in need of childcare, the New York City Department of Education is setting up Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs). RECs will open on Monday, March 23, and operate from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Monday-Friday), and will ensure that students have access to remote learning as well as various art, music, and other activities.
If you are required to report to work in-person, your child is a New York City resident, and you want to enroll your child in one of these centers, please complete the REC Enrollment Form. It is important that you complete this form for each child you seek to enroll. Once approved, you will then receive an email confirming your child’s center assignment. Please keep in mind that if your status changes and you are called to come to a work site on a regular basis, you are now in the category of essential staff and you can take advantage of this service.
Temporary Citywide Telework Policy for City Employees
During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services on March 13, 2020, issued a Personnel Services Bulletin directing mayoral agencies to implement a telework program as soon as possible for employees who are able to perform their jobs remotely. Eligibility to telework will be at the discretion of the agency head based upon the considerations identified in the PSB.
FEDERAL CARES ACT Unemployment & Small Business Assistance
On March 27, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the third in a series of legislative packages responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation does a number of things, including creating a new federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), designed to address the special problems for workers created by the COVID-19 crisis. This fact sheet focuses only on expanded unemployment benefits and small business relief, particularly in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.