As you know, the public health crisis we are currently facing is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Our state and federal governments are working to approach this crisis from many directions, one of which is how to help mitigate the potential negative impact on our workforce. As policies are developed and refined, we are working diligently to understand the impact to our college community, and how it may help as unexpected or challenging situations arise. With this communication, I want to provide summary thoughts on the core policies that are in place today, as well as some additional resources.
Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)
In one of my first communications to you, I provided a copy of the state’s Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) policy, and asked you to familiarize yourself with it. Essentially, this policy is designed to provide paid leave to full-time and wage employees when work hours are reduced or eliminated as a direct result of COVID-19. PHEL eligibility is based on regularly scheduled work hours. Effective last week, eligibility for full-time employees was increased from 80 hours to 160 hours, or the equivalent of 4 standard work weeks. For part-time employees, the proration also increased to the equivalent of four work weeks, with the amount based on an individual’s regularly scheduled work hours. For example, an employee regularly scheduled for 20 hours per week is eligible for up to 80 hours of PHEL; an employee regularly scheduled for 29 hours is eligible for up to 116 hours. Please talk with your supervisor if you believe that you may be eligible for PHEL.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
FFCRA is federal legislation that goes into effect nationwide today, April 1, 2020. While the typical requirement is to post these notices in our physical locations, I am instead attaching a copy of the poster to this email, as the majority of our campus community is now working remotely. This legislation has two main leave components: sick leave and expanded family/medical leave. As a state agency, we continue to await guidance from the Department of Human Resources regarding how this policy will be enacted across the state. Additional communications with details about how this pertains to us will be shared as soon as they are available.
While the policies noted above help to provide some financial peace of mind, it is normal to feel a heightened level of stress and anxiety in the midst of all of these changes. There are many resources available to help. Here are a few to get you started:
- COVID-19 Reducing Stress Video: https://youtu.be/jZ5u89yZRwg. At less than 4 minutes in length, this video provides quick ideas for how to reduce your stress during this time.
- Anthem provides a wealth of online resources related to EAP. Visit https://resources.powerflexweb.com/1631/login.html and enter “Commonwealth of Virginia” in the company code box, then click Commonwealth of Virginia. You may also reach out to Human Resources via Hrapps@virginiawestern.edu to discuss what EAP options may be available to you personally.
- The CDC has also developed a webpage dedicated to tips for managing anxiety and stress, which can be accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.
Additional communication will be forthcoming. If you have questions in the meantime, please reach out to Human Resources at Hrapps@virginiawestern.edu and our HR team will assist you.
As I have said before, our priority during this time is the safety and well-being of our campus community. Thank you for everything that you have done, and continue to do, to keep our college operational. Your efforts are sincerely appreciated.
Dr. Robert H. Sandel
Virginia Western Community College