Student Debt Forgiveness

In 2019, AFT filed suit against the US Department of Education (Weingarten v DeVos) over the US DOEs failure to properly manage the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). The US DOE settled this lawsuit entitling anyone who was previously denied student loan forgiveness under this program will now have an opportunity to have their loans re-evaluated for forgiveness. Further, the DOE has changed its policies to better serve those holding student debt rather than serving the loan management companies. 

This is of particular importance for CT State Employees as the PSLF guarantees that those who work in public service and consistently pay their monthly student loan bills will have the balance of their loans forgiven after 10 years. This means, state employees who consistently make student loan payments may now qualify for the elimination of any remaining debt.

AFT (A&R is a local of AFT) has committed to continue its fight to reduce the crushing impact that student can create and has also partnered with an online resource called Summer (www.meetsummer.org). AFT will provide this resource for free to all AFT/A&R members. The goal is to help union members reduce the impact of student debt but also to limit the all-to-often traps that have been set by student loan management companies. If you are an A&R member and you want to better manage your student debt, we encourage you to follow this link to the AFT website.

Open Budget Committee Meeting

The Budget Committee will be holding its annual Open Budget Meeting at the A&R Office on January 20, 2022  5:30pm.  This annual meeting is an opportunity for any A&R member to propose budget items for consideration and to view the upcoming budget as it is being prepared.  All members are invited to attend and participate or just simply listen.

Updates 12/8/21

First, a "thank you" to our amazing Social Committee and all of our volunteers led by co-chairs Rhonda Salvatore and Donna LoCurto for a fantastic drive-thru Holiday Party.  It is not easy getting 500 cars thru a parking lot in 5hrs but we think it went well and we hope everyone enjoyed!  We had several raffles and a guessing game, our winners were:

Catherine Shepherd-DCF won the 65" TV for guessing the 301 ornaments on the Christmas tree
Catherine Leaper-DSS won the Breakfast Basket
Karen Rozum-DOT won the Comfort Basket
Lisa Burgio-DMV won the Wine Basket
Carole Levesque-DRS won the Italian Basket
Lisa Lewis-DCP won the Lottery Frame
Silvia Saenz-DRS won the Men's Basket
Barbara Giansanti- DOC  won the Wine Chiller

Next, we are still working with the State to settle a wage package for our successor contract.  This has now been on-going for a year and while both sides are finding these discussions exceedingly lengthy, we are not yet on common ground.  A&R has not declared our negotiations to be at impasse yet but we are running low on tolerance at this point.

Along with this, here are a few of contractual reminders: first, please do not forget to use your remaining Personal Leave by December 31st.  There is no extension nor is there carry-over.  If you do not use your PL time by December 31st it is lost and there is nothing we can do to get it back for you. 

Also, while we believe our contract calls for TopStepPayments to be paid on time in January 2022, the State does not seem to agree and most likely will not be paying them until we finalize our successor agreement.  We have filed the grievance on this issue already. 

Lastly, a reminder that HEP requirements need to be completed by December 31.  There is latitude to become compliant before being removed from HEP, however, make sure you schedule any necessary appointments and anyone with a "chronic condition" who does not complete their requirements by 12/31/21 will not be eligible to collet the $100 payment.

And of course, don't forget to sign up for Telework via the State's Telework Request portal.

Telework Applications for the period commencing January 1, 2022

A Couple of Quick Items Before Telework:

1) We are aware that some people may not have received a payroll deposit and some have possibly received more than one payroll deposit on 12/2/21, we are unclear on the extent of the non-payments or overpayments nor do we have any agreement on the payment/payback procedures; please do not sign any payback agreement until we appropriately addressed the issue with the State.  If you are requested to make a backpayment, please notify A&R.  Below is an email that has circulated to state employees from the CORE Division of the Comptroller's Office explainging the situation:

Core-CT Daily Mail
December 2, 2021

Payroll Issue
An error in the data file generating direct deposit amounts for state employee payroll resulted in some employees seeing duplicate payment amounts in their bank accounts. A corrected file was issued yesterday before state payroll posted, and employees should have access to their funds today.

While payroll funds are not available until Thursday, some banks display deposits a day early.   Users of those banks, and others, may see transaction activity showing duplicate deposits, followed by offsetting debits. The correct deposit amount should ultimately appear as normal at some point before the end of business today.

The correction to the data error was sent to every necessary financial institution, but we want to emphasize that each bank has their own internal processes and may reflect changes differently, or at different times today. Every bank should ultimately process the correct payments today.

Employees should give their banks some time to correct the account displays, but if any errors or anomalies appear as of this afternoon, employees should contact their bank directly. If the bank is unable to remedy the issue, employees can contact the Office of the State Comptroller by phone at 860 702-3471, or by email at osc.payroll@ct.gov.

We apologize to any affected employees for the confusion and inconvenience but want to stress that everyone will receive their correct direct deposit amounts, as they would for any other pay cycle. We are investigating the root cause of the error and will engage in a thorough review to make sure that any possible anomalies are addressed, and the issue will be resolved for future pay cycles.
 


2) Tomorrow is the A&R Drive Thru Holiday Party, for those who have registered to attend, please don't forget that we also run a ToyDrive/Food Drive for the United Labor Agency and if you donate an unwrapped toy/food, you will get an extra "guess" in the game for the 65" TV.

Telework Reminder:

The application portal for telework during the period commencing January 1, 2022 has been established by the state.  While some agencies have already notified their employees that the new portal has been established and applications can be submitted, other agencies have lagged behind somewhat, leaving their employees in the dark.  Here is the link to the application portal:
https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=-nyLEd2juUiwJjH_abtzi9IcHp9ll7JBrnjCSfaJhilUQjVKQzlFVlAwOTM5WllDUUtRSklYU1kxRS4u

And here is a link to a jointly issued statement to all Executive Branch Employees from the SEBAC Chief Negotiator and the Undersecretary for Labor Relations addressing the application process.  We strongly recommend reviewing the Joint Statement, as it addresses many of the questions regarding telecommuting.  We echo the sentiments conveyed in the Joint Statement that all employees interested in telework during the period commencing January 1, 2022 should apply as expeditiously as possible:
Joint Statement on Telework Applications for Period Commencing January 1, 2022

Here is a link to the full telework agreement.  Please note that section 4.10 will be determined via arbitration award and items 4.3, 4.4, & 4.5 establish the basic parameters for establishing reasonable requests.  There is no "cap" on the amount of Telework available, it should be guided by your duties and operational need, lastly, there is no list of "ineligible" job titles, however, Hazardous Duty employees and those who were considered Level1 Constant during the pandemic (meaning they couldn't telework during the emergency period of the pandemic) are at the complete discretion of the agency for their telework requests:
Full Telework Agreement

In the event you need to file an appeal, utilize this email address:
telework@andr.org

posted 12/1/21

Comptroller's Memo - Changes to Retirement Rules Effective July 1, 2022

Below is a link to an informative memo from the Comptroller's Retirement Services Division explaining the changes that will become effective July 1, 2022 as a result of the 2017 & 2011 SEBAC Agreements previously ratified by the membership in those years.  The Comptroller's memo discusses the changes in three broad categories: retirement age, retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and retiree healthcare rules changes.  As most members are already aware, these changes are somewhat complex.  Intended to provide instruction to Human Resource and Payroll Officers, the memo is a good source for all state employees in the SERS (State Employees Retirement System).

Link:
Retirement Services Division Memorandum 2021-03