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Board of Pensions announces substantial Benefits Plan changes

PHILADELPHIA (Board of Pensions) — The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has announced changes to the church Benefits Plan that extend support to more ministers and add benefits that promote financial protection for all church workers.

The changes, effective January 1, 2021, are the most substantial since the plan redesign of 2017.

Announcing Minister’s Choice

To address the Board of Pensions’ concern that too many ministers are not enrolled in the Benefits Plan, the 2021 plan offers two packages for PC(USA) ministers: the existing Pastor’s Participation and the new Minister’s Choice.

Enrollment in Pastor’s Participation, a comprehensive benefits package with medical coverage and pension participation, is required for installed pastors and may be offered to any minister with a minimum 20-hour workweek. Dues, paid in full by the employer, will remain at 37 percent of effective salary for 2021, with no reduction to existing benefits and the addition of the new Temporary Disability Plan.

Minister’s Choice, available for non-installed ministers working at least 20 hours a week, includes pension, death and disability, temporary disability (a new benefit for 2021), and the Employee Assistance Plan. The cost is 10 percent of effective salary, also fully employer paid.

Minister’s Choice also opens the door for eligibility to programs that have been available only through Pastor’s Participation: CREDO; Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations; Minister Educational Debt Assistance; and Sabbath Sabbatical Support. And it includes eligibility for Emergency Assistance, Adoption Assistance, and Transition-to-College Assistance.

New Financial Protection Programs

The comprehensive protection provided through the Death and Disability Plan is unchanged. This plan is offered in conjunction with pension under Pastor’s Participation and Minister’s Choice and on a noncontributory basis outside of those packages.

For 2021, the Board of Pensions has added financial protection options, giving employers greater opportunity to provide this critical support. The plan will include the Temporary Disability Plan and the Long-Term Disability Plan and an expanded term life benefit. Together, the temporary and long-term disability benefits provide comprehensive financial protection to ministers and church workers.

The Temporary Disability Plan provides a benefit equal to 60 percent of effective salary, capped at the IRS maximum ($285,000 in 2020). The plan covers up to 90 days of disability, with a 14-day waiting period before benefits payments begin. As a noncontributory benefit, employers pay the full cost for ministers enrolled in Pastor’s Participation and Minister’s Choice. Employers may offer it outside of those benefits packages, with either the employer or the member paying the full cost of coverage.

The Long-Term Disability Plan is a noncontributory option that offers financial protection for employees with a disability that surpasses 90 days, providing 60 percent of effective salary, capped at the IRS maximum ($285,000 in 2020), throughout their disability. Because the Death and Disability Plan includes a long-term disability benefit, the two plans cannot be offered together.

The Term Life Plan offers the same, low-cost coverage available in the 2020 Benefits Plan. But in addition to a fixed amount of coverage (from $5,000 to $50,000), it includes a new feature — an income-based benefit amount, equal to one times a member’s effective salary, capped at $50,000. Under either option, employers pay the full cost of coverage.

Expanded eligibility for assistance programs

In addition to the eligibility expansion under Minister’s Choice, eligibility for other grants will also be broader in 2021. Adoption Assistance and Transition-to-College Assistance will be available for members enrolled for medical orpension benefits; currently, member and child must be enrolled for medical.

Retiree Medical assistance will be extended to retirees in the Medicare Supplement Plan, with no required minimum years’ service. This expands the current eligibility requirement that the retiree (or the spouse or surviving spouse) be enrolled in the Medicare Supplement Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan and have 20 years of pension participation. All other eligibility requirements, such as household income, are unchanged.

The Board of Pensions goal is for every minister and church worker to have access to quality benefits in support of well-being. The 2021 Benefits Plan advances on that goal while also enabling more ministers to access programs designed to help them devote their best gifts to ministry.