A Few Random Answers

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Some answers to questions that we have been getting:

Random Answer #1: No - President Trump's Executive Order allowing the deferral of FICA payments (roughly 7.65% for the employee) is not going to be implemented by the Comptroller's Office. The executive order would have allowed State Employees to defer payments into the Social Security and Medicaid systems through the end of the of the year.  This was not a tax break - it was merely a deferral of tax payments - those same payments would have come due during the next year. The Comptroller gave a reason why it won't be implemented for State Employees, not really interested in the "why", just glad he said "no". 

Random Answer #2: Yes - There is an IRS pension limit on (1) earnings that qualify for a pension as well as a limit (2) on the pension amount that can be used to calculate a pension.  We didn't comment on this announcement from the Comptroller's Office because the limit on qualifying earnings is $230,000 (which shouldn't apply to anyone in A&R; if it does, and you are single, please contact the A&R Office).  The second limit is on earnings that can be counted towards pension calculations; that cap is $285,000 (again, this cap shouldn't apply to anyone in A&R...if it does, and you are single, contact the A&R Office).

Random Answer #3: No - The Top Step Payment will not be paid to those who retire January 1st, 2021.  The Top Step Payment is earned on the first day of the pay period that includes January 1st.  Usually, January 1st retirees get the Top Step Payment.  However, once in a while, January 1st is the first day of the pay period, as it will be this coming year.  As a result, if you retire January 1st (meaning you are not on payroll on that day) you will not collect the Top Step Payment.   This is the first time these circumstances have presented themselves in several years.  A New Year's gift from the banner year of 2020.  At least 2020 brought one good thing - this is the rare year in which we receive 27 paychecks over the course of the year, rather than 26.

Random Answer #4: No - The Retiree Healthcare "Rule of 75" only applies if you defer retirement, it does not apply if you transition directly into retirement.

Random Answer #5:  No - We haven't quite figured out the new HR re-alignment either...we are trying to follow it too.  We know there are DAS "pods" assigned to each agency and that Labor Relations is now separate from HR, but we have not figured out who is assigned to what and when/how to communicate with your "pod" just yet.  We will learn as the situation unfolds.

Random Answer #6:  No - DCF has not complied with A&R's data request for Kronos information.  Our guess is that they don't like the results or it's a complete mess.  We are pursuing this and will be submitting more data requests.  The final 3 agencies (DOC, DESPP, Veterans Affars) are still planning to go live with Kronos within 6 weeks.

Random Answer #7:  Yes - We will make a demand to bargain with the State for a successor agreement next week.  We don't expect to actually start bargaining right away, but we will make the request to open negotiations on our next contract, as our current contract expires June 30, 2021.

Random Answer #8:  No -  Despite the new "Notice of Intent to Retire" form stating that it must be submitted 60 days in advance of the retirement date, you do not need to make that declaration 60 days in advance; you still have the right to retire at any time if you qualify.  We are not sure why the 60 day limit was added to the form.  While it certainly is helpful and advisavble to give plenty of notice so your first pension check will be timely, it is not a mandatory part of the retirement process.

Random Answer #9:  Yes - Regarding COVID, agencies are looking to "open up" more.  Right now, it is generally the "front-facing" parts of agencies which are opening up to the public.  As COVID hospitalizations are rising slightly, this may deter a full "opening" at most agencies.  However, eventually we expect to be talking about getting "back to normal".  Our perspective: teleworking has been a resounding success.  The pandemic has provided a real life excercise and telecommuting has shown itself to have passed the test.  Clearly the notion that eveyone needs to be at their office 5 days a week to perform their duties is not correct.  As the state workforce has shown, telecommuting in the informaiton age is a viable working condition.  We knew this before COVID hit.  In 2017 we negotiated to make telecommuting a contractual right.  We have been struggling with the state ever since, as the state had been reluctant to make telecommuting a reality.  COVID changed all of that and now telecommuting has become an integral part of our working conditions.  Rest assured we are going to do all that is possible to ensure telecommuting remains an option once the pandemic subsides.  Moving forward, our hope is that the State, recognizing the benefits of telecommuting, will cease with the ridiculous amount of paperwork, scrutiny, and denials previously associated with telework and instead will embrace telework for what it really is, simply a secondary worksite with successful results minus the aggravation of morning traffic.

Random Answer #10:  Yes - Your new Medical Insuranse/Pharmacy Card should be in the mailbox within the next 2 weeks.  Yes, it is a new ID number so you will need to update the insurance information at your next doctor's appointment.  There have also been some changes from the Site of Service and SmartShopper programs (they have been renamed), but by using the CareCompass/Health Navigator you can still take advantage of the savings providing by those programs if you select your care from one of the "Networks of Distinction" or "Centers of Excellence".

Random Answer #11:  Yes, a single "Fair" on your service rating can be grieved.  However, a single "Fair" will not impact your annual increment or top step payment.