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The Board of Pension (BOP) recognizes that the current COVID-19 crisis has had a dramatic affect on all Iowa United Methodists. Local congregations have been presented with challenges that no one could have predicted several months ago. The totality of the physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial effect is yet to be completely understood. We know that the COVID-19 crisis has placed a burden on individual families, communities, and on the local church.
For these reasons, the BOP approved two policies during our May 21, 2020 meeting to help the local charges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Streamlined Direct Bill Assist Program
The Board of Pensions understands the COVID-19 pandemic has left most local churches uncertain of their financial future including the ability to cover clergy payroll and benefits. Many churches have applied for the federal Payroll Protection Plan and have received funds while others are waiting on the availability of new funds. Because each local church is in a different financial position and because The United Methodist Church believes in a connectional system and because the Board of Pensions has limited resources, the Board of Pensions encourages all churches to make every effort to pay their direct billing in full. If churches find themselves unable to keep up with direct billing payments because of circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they may apply to the Board of Pensions for relief.
To provide this financial relief to local churches the Iowa Annual Conference Board of Pensions has set aside $1,000,000 for direct bill assistance to be used in 2020. The Board wishes to provide a streamlined the process for applying for direct bill assistance so that you may fill out an online application that will be submitted directly to the Board of Pensions. This new process will be called the COVID-19 Streamlined Direct Bill Assist Program and is intended to augment the normal Direct Bill Assistance Program.
- Any Local Church which is unable to pay their direct billing in full can apply for assistance online.
-The Board of Pensions will provide assistance equal to 50% of the church's share of the direct billing each month for up to 3 months.
-The program offers streamlined application requirements and the use of an online form versus the Board of Pensions Regular Direct Bill Assistance program requirements and process.
-Program will be available from March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020
-Local Churches must submit an online application signed off by the Chairperson of either the Staff Parish Relations Committee or the Trustees Committee.
-Said Chairman must attest to the fact the local church has explored all available options and is unable to pay direct bill expenses and this shortfall is directly related to the COVID-19 crisis.
-Applications will be forwarded to the board of pensions review committee.
-The financial documents, stewardship plan and apportionment requirements will be waived under the streamlined program
-Direct bill will be adjusted based on committee’s approval with-in 30days.
-All board review committee decisions are final.
-Any local Church who is turned down or needs assistance after 3 months may apply through the normal Direct Billing Assistance Process.
COVID-19 Payroll Assist Policy
The Iowa Annual Conference Board of Pension recognizes that the current COVID-19 crisis has had a dramatic affect on all Iowa Methodists. Local Congregations have been presented with challenges that no one could have predicted a few months ago. The totality of the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial effect is yet to be completely understood. Many Churches are being forced to consider laying off staff to meet the financial burdens of this pandemic. While the Federal Payroll Protection Plan has offered some relief, not all churches have been approved to receive funds. Additionally, this crisis is likely to extend past the two months of protection this program provides. It is this uncertainty that makes it difficult to determine what measures would be most helpful.
Considering all the circumstances the Iowa Annual Conference Board of Pensions wishes to offer financial relief. The Board is announcing the creation of a Payroll Assist Fund. This fund is intended to help local churches retain non-appointed staff. The Board has set aside $400,000 for this program
-Local Churches will be able to apply for a onetime $1000 loan to be used for payroll for non-appointed staff.
-This will be an interest free loan with that will be due in full January 31, 2021.
-At the end of the term the loan will be forgiven if it is determined the church has no practical way to repay the loan. Decision to forgive loans will be made by either the direct bill assistance review committee or the executive committee.
-The Church must be able to substantiate that the funds were used for payroll for non-appointed staff.
-Churches Can apply between now and October 1st.
-Local church must have applied for the PPP program. Eligabity for the Payroll Assistance is not based on whether the local church received funds, only that they applied for funds.
-Local church must have been participating in direct billing for clergy benefits at least four months from March 2020 to December 2020.
-Local Church Board of Trustees must apply for the loan.
-The $1000 will be deducted from the following months direct billing.
-If the financial situation results in the church not having cash flow to cover payroll and direct billing, the local church may ask for a disbursement by check or EFT.
-Repayment must be complete by January 31, 2021. This payment can be made be either check or EFT.