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  • Local 697 COVID-19 Bulletin Board
    Updated On: May 01, 2020

    Brothers & Sisters – As you know, the COVID-19 situation continues to change at a rapid pace so I have decided to start this “COVID-19 Bulletin Board” as a centralized reference point for you and your family.  This will continue to be updated as we have a very bumpy road ahead of us.  Please make sure you have the Local 697 app download and the notifications turned on as I have been, and will continue to send out “push notifications” whenever new information is added.

    Remember Brothers and Sisters, we have never seen a crisis like this in our lifetimes – please make safe and smart decisions for you and your family.  Together, we will get through this and I will not leave your side.

    697 Strong!

    Ryan R. Reithel
    Business Manager / Financial Secretary
    IBEW Local Union 697

    Governor Holcomb - Indiana Economy to be fully Reopened by 4th of July in 5-Stage Plan

    On Friday, May 1st, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced the lifting of the state's stay-at-home order for most all counties effective May 4th. The stay-at-home order is being extended until May 11th for Lake and Marion counties, and May 18th for Cass county.  

    In doing so, the governor issued Executive Order 20-26, a Roadmap to Reopen Indiana for Hoosiers, Businesses, and State Government, which also details the timeline to fully reopen the Indiana economy by the 4th of July.  The 5 stages of this plan are detailed in a 17-page document, What's Open, What's Closed.


    The governor has created a webpage to help Hoosiers understand each stage of the Back on Track Indiana plan and the accompanying precautions and restrictions for each.

    Cancelled or Postponed Local 697 Events

    The Local 697 Federal Credit Union Annual Dinner Meeting that was scheudled for Friday, May 15th at the Avalon has been POSTPONED until further notice.

    The Local 697 EWMC, RENEW, Motorcycle Club, Sisters and Veterans meetings are all POSTPONED until further notice.

    Hours of Operation for the 697 Complex
    Effective immediately and until further notice...

    The 697 JATC lobby is closed, all apprentice classes have been suspended and all student have been shifted to e-learning from the safety of their homes.  Additionally, all journeyman classes have been suspended.  The staff is here working on the e-learning material and available by phone 219-940-6175 for any questions.

    The 697 Credit Union lobby is closed but the drive-thru will remain OPEN and loans will still be available.  The staff is here and available by phone at 219-940-6180 for any questions.

    The 697 Health & Benefits Office lobby is closed but the staff is here and available by phone at 219-940-6181 for any questions.  We are requiring all members to be seen by appointment only for specific issues that cannot be discussed effectively over the phone or through email.

    The 697 Business Office lobby is closed but the staff is here and available by phone at 219-945-0697 for any questions.  We are requiring all members to be seen by appointment only for specific issues that cannot be discussed effectively over the phone or through email.  Please remember that dues payments can be made online, on the Local 697 website/app or the credit union can send your payment.  A Local 697 member can register on the out of work list (book) via e-mail to info@ibew697.org or by fax 219-945-0650.  A traveling member can register via the same email or fax by submitting their Current Dues Receipt that shows classification with; letter of introduction from home Local or current term-slip within 3 days of separation OR Business Manager to Business Manager.

    Direct Deposit - Request
    I want to strongly encourage each of you that have the direct deposit option with your employer to PLEASE do so.  This would also include any Local 697 Pensioners to PLEASE make sure you are set up for direct deposit.  We are down to just a handful that are still requesting a traditional check.  This can be problematic during this global pandemic and can be easily rectified by contacting your employer or the Local 697 Benefits Office.  Kindly note, your monthly fringe benefits monies from your employer, Indiana unemployment and the additional government stimulus checks are already on direct deposit.  Thank you for considering this option to mitigate all health risks and to ensure there are no financial delays for you and your family.

    IRS Stimulus Check
    The IRS has just launched a new website to...
    • Check the status of your Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check)

    • Confirm your payment type (direct deposit or check)

    • Enter your bank account information for direct deposit if you have yet to receive your payment

    • Update your bank account or mailing address if it has changed from your 2019 tax return

     To visit the new IRS Stimulus Check website click HERE

    CARES ACT - Federal legislation
    Congress passed a $2 trillion economic rescue plan that will offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus.  Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more.

    I added a 9 page attachment for the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) that include the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits through July, 31st; 39 weeks of unemployment benefits through December 31st; $1,200 per person tax credit, plus $500 dependent (max 2) subject to income limits and much, much more.

    Northern Indiana Disease Emergency Response Agreement (NIDERA)
    In recognition of the current emergency in our nation and the need for our industry to react quickly to this and future emergencies, IBEW Local 153, 531, 697 and the Northern Indiana NECA Chapter have developed the Northern Indiana Disease Emergency Response Agreement (NIDERA) for use by our contractors and members. This agreement provides our industry with the ability to react quickly to potential emergencies related to this pandemic.The provisions of the agreement will become effective immediately, March 16, 2020, as it is intended for use and shall remain in effect until terminated. The parties shall meet via teleconference every 30 days to evaluate this agreement and determine its continued utility.

    Indiana Executive Orders for COVID-19
    Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has issued Executive Order 20-05 on March 19th that contains emergency changes for Unemployment, Family Social Services, Veterans Affairs, Department of Education, Essential Services, Department of Revenue, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Department of Health, Public Licensing and all State Agencies.

    Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-08 on March 23rd that contains information on the Stay-at-Home Order, Non-Essential Business Must Cease Operations, Prohibited Activities, Prohibited and Permitted Travel, Leaving the Home for Essential Activities, CISA approved list, Essential Travel, Social Distancing and Enforcement of the Executive Orders.

    Additionally, Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-12 on March 26th that contains information on Unemployment (Suspensions of the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits), Department of Health, Family & Social Services, Professional Licensing and Government Finance.  Please take some time to review these official documents as they contain important information for you and your family.

    Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-18 on April 6th that contains information on the extension of the "stay-at-home order" that will now expire at 11:59pm on Monday, April 20, 2020, Extension of Continuity of Government; and Extension of Executive Orders Pertaining to Restaurants and Alcoholic Beverages.

    UPDATE: Governor Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-22 on April 20th that contains information on the extension of the "stay-at-home order" that will now expire at 11:59pm on Friday, May 1, 2020.  The Construction industry remains exempt under section 11, section 14(a), 14(i) and section 14(s).

    Going to work during the "Stay-at-Home Order"
    Let me be clear and concise with this next statement - Each and every one of you has a decision to make whether to go to work if your job is open or stay home because of the possibility of contracting and/or passing “COVID-19”.  There shall be no adverse action taken against an employee who refuses to be present at the jobsite so long as the employee genuinely believes there is imminent danger and a reasonable person would agree there is a real danger of contracting coronavirus at the jobsite, nor shall any adverse action be taken against an employee who has been quarantined, or advised to self-quarantine, due to possible exposure to coronavirus.  This is part of the NIDERA that we are all currently operating under.

    There have been multiple questions as to how does the Governor’s Executive order effect construction.  The Executive Order, for the time being, does have exclusions for our industry as stated in section 11, section 14(a), 14(i) and section 14(s).

    I have attached the following documents for everyone’s clarification and understanding…

    I strongly suggest you keep this supporting documentation with you along with your current dues receipt in case there are any questions and/or potential issues with Law Enforcement.

    Filing for Unemployment
    Per the NIDERA that we are currently operating under, you are allowed to file for unemployment during your permitted furlough as a direct result of the Coronavirus.  When you come to the section that asks if your employer has a “Sub Fund” click NO as your 697 Sub Fund is NOT tied to your employer. You can only file for unemployment insurance benefits online with a computer, tablet, or smart phone. 

    To view the simplified 1, 2, 3 steps for filing Indiana unemployment - click HERE

    To file for unemployment, visit www.unemployment.in.gov  which includes an updated FAQ, tutorial and other helpful information.

    For the Indiana Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions for the COVID-19 work-related issues that was updated on Monday, April 20th click HERE.  Please note this is an interactive 12 page document with lot of great information.  The new updates are in RED.

    DWD has released a new set of simple how-to videos to assist the user experience for claimants.  The new video collection can be found here: https://on.in.gov/uivids  

    Please be patient and remember, there is a Covid-19 section at the end to help clarify your reason for filing.  These are the (3) Covid-19 questions you will have to answer...

    Governor Holcomb's Executive Order 20-12 suspended the one (1) week waiting period before paying unemployment benefits.  This suspension shall be retroactive to March 8, 2020 and will help all Hoosiers.

    During Governor Holcomb's update on Monday, April 6, 2020, the Commissioner for Indiana DWD stated that the $600 federal PUC benefit (in addition to Indiana Unemployment Benefit) should be available starting the week of April 20th.  This is part of the CARES Act - Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and will be paid retroactive to March 29th.  Meaning, those on weekly unemployment anytime from March 29, 2020 until July 31, 2020 will receive and extra $600 per week add to their Indiana Unemployment amount.

    I have received several questions from you as it relates to the additional $600 weekly federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) benefit for those that are on under-employment (working 1 or 2 days a week).  RULING: The claimant must be able to receive at least $1 in Indiana Unemployment weekly benefits to obtain the $600 in federal (PUC).  In other words, you weekly income to qualify for Unemployment is based on the Indiana Unemployment max of $390 and NOT $990 ($390 Indiana + $600 Federal PUC).  Please reference Section 4 (a)(ii) on pages 1-5 in the new Federal Guidance Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 15-20 that was sent to all State Workforce Agencies.

    It's currently taking 21 days to process unemployment insurance claims (i.e., To receive the first payment after initial claim filing).  The Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) is waving the 1-week waiting period.  This means claimants will be paid for the first week of unemployment, not that the payments will be expedited by a week.

    Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)

    • The $600 weekly PUC payments will start Monday, April 20, 2020.
    • DWD will pay retroactively from week-ending March 29, 2020 (through the week-ending July 31, 2020, if applicable.)
    • Be mindful in work-sharing / under-employment situations: a claimant must be able to receive at least $1 in Indiana unemployment insurance benefits in a week in order to obtain the $600 in federal PUC.

    Multi-State Unemployment Insurance Benefit Claims

    If within the based period (the first four of the last five quarters) a member has worked for contractors in two different states and is now laid off--as a practical matter--they should file for unemployment in the state with the highest weekly benefit amounts.  (They may not file in both.) This assumes that the claimant has earned enough wage credits in that state to qualify for UI benefits.  If they don’t, they may be told to file in the second state.  Indiana has the ability for a claimant to file a “combined wage claim,” so this should not be the case if they file in Indiana.  Note that whichever state establishes eligibility will payout the weekly $600 in federal PUC.

    Local 697 Sub Fund
    In conjunction with the new NECA-IBEW Northern Indiana Disease Emergency Response Agreement (NIDERA) that is in effect, the Trustees of the Local 697 Sub Fund took the following action:

    BE IT RESOLVED the Eligibility for Weekly Sub Fund Benefit Rules A, C and D of the Summary Plan Description found on page 10 of said Summary Plan Description shall be suspended until either NIDERA is terminated or until further notice is given by the Trustees, whichever occurs first.

    To summarize:  In light of the COVID-19 situation and the potential for job shut downs which may result in temporary unemployment, the Trustees of the Sub Fund have suspended the requirements that: a member must have $1,200 accumulated in their individual Sub Fund Account; be signed on the IBEW Local 697 out of work list; or be available to accept a call for work as a prelude to receive their Sub Fund Benefit.

    Please be aware that you must still apply for state unemployment before you can obtain any Sub Fund benefit. If you qualify for Sub Fund benefit, you may choose to receive a benefit of $150 or $300 per week. All other provisions of the Summary Plan Description shall remain in full force and effect. If you have any questions, please contact the Fund office.  

    As it was and will remain, you DO NOT have to draw from your Sub Fund if you are on unemployment.  Please use the Sub Fund benefit so it will work best for you and your family as we have a long and bumpy road ahead of us.

    Here are the instructions for getting your SUB Fund benefits started...

    1. Go to the Local 697 Benefits Office website at www.ibew697benefits.com/sub-fund/

    2. On the left hand side of the S.U.B. Fund landing page, locate “SUB FUND FORMS”

    3. Within that section, locate and click upon “Weekly S.U.B. Fund Benefit Application”

    4. Print out that form and complete in its entirety.

    5. Take a picture with your cell phone of the completed application along with your weekly state unemployment print out.

    6. E-mail the pictures to phuff@ibew697benefits.org

    7. If you do not wish to e-mail the paperwork, you may either mail in the forms or drop them off through the Credit Unions drive-up window.

    Health Care - hours and eligibility
    At this point, there have not been any changes made.  All options are under continual review as we HAVE TO make sure this fund stays healthy and can take the medical impact from the COVID-19 virus to protect you and your family. 

    Here is a list of Questions & Answers and helpful tips...

    Q: How many hours do I need to continue my coverage?
    A: Journeypersons are required to have 420 hours contributed on their behalf during a calendar quarter or make a self-payment equivalent to the monthly cost of the hourly employer contribution requirement.  Apprentices participants need 326 hours contributed on their behalf during a calendar quarter or make a self-payment equivalent to the monthly cost of the hourly employer contribution requirement.

    Q: How does the Health and Benefit Plan determine my eligibility?
    A: Coverage under the Plan is divided into four benefit periods and are known a "Work Quarter".  Each "Work Quarter" consists of three consecutive calendar months:  January- February-March, April-May-June, July-August-September and October-November-December. Calendar quarters in which the Fund received hourly contributions on your behalf are termed “Work Quarter”.  “Quarter of Coverage” is credited when the required number of hours or the premium expense equivalent is received by the Fund for the corresponding calendar “Work Quarter”.

    Work Quarter
    Quarter of Coverage

    Please note that the middle column is deliberately left blank to emphasis the fact that there exists an administrative “lag quarter” that separates a work quarter from its corresponding quarter of coverage.  Meaning:  Contributions received for covered worked performed in any work quarter do not provide coverage in the subsequent calendar quarter of coverage.  Rather, it skips a quarter.

    Q: How do I know how many hours I worked within a quarter?
    A: Participants wishing to verify the number of hours contributed/reported on their behalf during any period of time, can do so by using one of four methods:
    1. Check your pay stubs.

    2. Check the balance within your vacation fund. Then take the vacation dollar amount contributed for that month and divide that figure by 5%, which is the rate in which your employer is required to contribute. That figure will provide you with your gross salary for that month. Now divide that figure by the hourly wage.That figure is the number of hours you worked that month.

    3. Check the amounts contributed to their Annuity (Vanguard Account). Follow the same steps as listed above but use the gross salary contribution rate 16.07%.

    4. Or you can always call the call the Fund Office at 219-940-6181.

    Q: What happened to the hour bank?
    A: On October 1, 2018, balances within an employee’s hour bank were combined with whatever balance existed within their (MRP) Medical Reimbursement Plan account to create the (HRA) Health Reimbursement Account.  Meaning: The (MRP) no longer exists and was moved into the (HRA).

    Q: What is a (HRA) Health Reimbursement Account ?
    A: Your Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) is a tax-advantage personalized health benefit that allows you to pay for a wide range of medical expenses considered to be qualified under IRS Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code, including self-payment premiums to the Health and Benefit Plan.

    Q: How do I access my HRA account?
    A: Either through the Paylocity online portal at www.Paylocity.com or on the Paylocity app.  If you are just in need of sign-on instructions, please be advised that your username is the first initial of your first name, followed by your last name, last four digits of your Social Security Number and your two-letter home state abbreviation.

    MEMBER EXAMPLE:  Clark Kent, 000-00-1234, Indiana 

    USER NAME: ckent1234in (not case sensitive)

    TEMPORARY PASSWORD: paylocity (all lower case)

    Q: Can I use HRA monies to make self or payments?
    A: Yes. But you must make sure that your shortage of hours payment is received no later than the end of business on the first business day of the month.
    Remember, for the reason that the hour bank was combined with the MRP account in October 1, 2018, the Plan does not deduct your HRA account for any shortage of hours. You must make those payments yourself.

    Q: I am in the Paylocity website.  How do I make an electronic payment to the 697 Benefits Office for my shortage of hours? 
    A: Here are the steps...

    1. Go to www.Paylocity.com and login

    2. Click upon the “Manage My Expenses” button.

    3. Click on “Add Expense”

    4. Complete the expense detailed fields. Be sure to fill out as many fields as possible and under the expense description, enter “Shortage of Hours”

    5. Under date of service, enter 3/31/2020.

    6. Under the sections titled “Amount Billed” and “Total Expense” enter the amount owed for the shortage of hours.

    7. Under provider, add the Fund.

    8. Provider Name: Local 697 H&B

    9. Provider Account: This is your medical Id number.

    10. Provider Address: 7200 Mississippi Street, Merrillville IN 46410

    11. Click Save.This will automatically pre-populate the fields.

    12. Pick the member as the participant

    13. Upload a copy of the Funds shortage of hours’ notice.

    14. Click “Save for Later”

    15. At the top of the page you will see the following message “Your expense has been successfully added’, and you will also see that a new expense line was added to the top of your expense list.

    16. You are done.

    Credit Union
    To assist Local 697 Members during these difficult times the Local 697 Federal Credit Union is offering to qualifying Members in good standing, a one-time Member Assistance Loan with the following terms:

    • Loan amount up to $5,000 with no payments for 90 days*
    • Low interest rate of 6.99%*
    • Up to 24 months to pay back the loan in full (after the 90-day payment deferment 27-month total term)*

    *Interest accrues from the date of loan closing. Maximum term is 24 months and maximum loan amount is $5,000 to qualified borrowers. Approximate payment of $44.77 per $1,000 financed.

    For our members that have their Real Estate Loans with the Local 697 Credit Union that are being serviced by Member First Mortgage and are requesting hardship assistance, you can visit their website at www.memberfirstmortgage.com and under the resources tab is a "hardship assistance link" that gives you direct access to the Mortgage Assistance Application which needs to be completed and returned. You can contact them at 866-636-1053 or the Local 697 Credit Union at 219-845-6040 if you have questions.

    Annuity - Vanguard Account
    We are currently working with our legal council and Vanguard along with the provisions in the proposed Federal stimulus bill(s).  Information keeps changing by the day and nothing has been finalized in Congress at this point.  Additionally, this will have to be approved at the State level.  It is critical to make sure our emergency options DO NOT have catastrophic tax consequences for our members & their families.  Please keep this option as a last resort with your planning and preparation during this crisis.

    Teladoc (telemedicine)
    Teladoc (telemedicine) is included with your Local 697 Health Care.  I know most of you have used it over the past year, but I wanted to remind everyone that this benefit is available to you and your family during this global pandemic.  If you have not downloaded the Teladoc app, you can do this by clicking on the “Benefits Office” tab of the Local 697 website or click HERE.

    OSHA - Guidance on Preparing workplaces for Covid-19

    This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.  It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards.  The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan.  In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.  Material contained in this publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced, fully or partially, without permission.  Source credit is requested but not required.  To view the 35 page document click HERE.

    Indiana Primary Election
    Voter registration for the Indiana Primary Election will end at midnight, Monday, May 4th.  You can register to vote, confirm you status and find you polling location online at www.IndianaWorkersVote.com

    Per Indiana Election Commission Order 2020-37, all registered and qualified Indiana voters may cast a ballot by mail with no excesses in the upcoming June 2, 2020, Primary Election.  To request an absentee-by-mail ballot, please complete this form ABS-Mail Primary 2020 and return it to your county election officials (addresses are on the back of the form).  The deadline to return this form is Thursday, may 21, 2020, by 11:59 p.m. local time.

    The Indiana Primary Election will be on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    If you are a Veteran, the please check out the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs Military Family Relief Fund

    Blood Donations Needed
    The American Red Cross now faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak.  If you are healthy and able, please come out to donate.  If you have questions about donating during the COVID-19 global pandemic or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.redcrossblood.org  for information and precautions in place for donors.

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