The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted work and school schedules and left many JHU employees with significant challenges related to child care, elder care, and supporting their school-age children's education. In response, Johns Hopkins University has created a new COVID-19 Caregiving Relief Fund, which will reimburse eligible, unexpected caregiving expenses related to the pandemic that are submitted by qualified full-time employees, doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, residents, interns, and trainees.
Last month, university leadership received a report written by members of the University Pandemic Academic Advisory Committee (UPAAC) informed by consultations with more than 80 junior faculty representing all the university's divisions. In an email to university employees, President Ron Daniels, Provost Sunil Kumar, and Vice President for Human Resources Heidi Conway said that among the most pressing challenges faced by junior faculty as well as staff, PhD students, and postdoctoral fellows were those caregiving obligations impacted by the pandemic, from ensuring the well-being of elderly parents to supervising virtual school for elementary-age kids.
"Over the summer, we responded to these concerns by introducing a suite of new caregiving programs," they said. "Today, we are very pleased to add another support: the COVID-19 Caregiving Relief Fund, to help cover child care and other caregiving costs that have increased due to the pandemic."
The fund was created to respond to new costs that individuals are facing because of school closures and other disruptions, not to support regular, expected child care arrangements. It also provides reimbursement for unanticipated caregiving-related distance learning, educational support, and technology needs arising from changes in employees' regular routines.
For example, a family can get help paying for a child care provider who covers times when their child would normally have been in school. They also can seek reimbursement for virtual or in-person tutoring that is needed to support a move to digital learning. Technology needs related to digital school, such as a boost in Wi-Fi or a laptop for remote education, may be eligible. Also, meal delivery or household services for an immediate family member who cannot return to an adult day center could qualify. More examples and a list of expenses that are not eligible—along with other frequently asked questions—are on the HR website.
The Caregiving Relief Fund complements the previously launched COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which provides grants of up to $1,000 to eligible full-time workers for a variety of COVID-19-related expenses. Both are temporary, nontaxable financial relief programs tied to the federally declared disaster and designed to assist in managing costs incurred specifically due to COVID-19, with monthly maximum benefits determined by income.
The caregiving fund will begin accepting reimbursement applications on Oct. 1 for expenses incurred since Sept. 1 and/or technology expenses incurred since July 1.
The maximum monthly award is based on an individual's salary level:
- A person with a salary of up to $50,000 can receive up to $800
- A person with a salary of $50,001 to $100,000 can receive up to $600
- A person with a salary of $100,001 to $175,000 can receive up to $400
To participate, employees have to be benefits-eligible and have worked at Johns Hopkins for one year. Full-time JHU doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows qualify, including medical students, house staff, residents, interns, and trainees. Individuals will have to provide documentation of their expenses.
The suite of caregiving resource enhancements that the university recently shared with employees includes expanded services to locate child and elder care through Care@Work and access to Komae, a co-op-style parent network platform through which Hopkins families can find each other to pool resources for caregiving at no cost. In their email, leaders also encouraged employees to continue to use the mySupport program for additional mental health and well-being resources.
"As always, we are immensely thankful for all you bring to the life of our university, no matter where in the world you are," Daniels, Kumar, and Conway wrote. "We hope that these supports—whether you avail yourself of one or all—continue to help you and your families manage during the pandemic."