May 19 Update from the Pension Boards

Dear Friends,

All of us at the Pension Boards continue to pray that you and your loved ones remain well and safe. Our executive team remains focused on developing a re-entry plan that ensures our colleagues remain healthy and safe once state and local restrictions are lifted.

On Thursday, May 15, the Pension Boards held its Annual Meeting of Members virtually for the first time. A number of you all around the country signed into the meeting to receive reports from Pension Boards’ officers and for the results of the election and re-election of Trustee nominees. Through your mail and electronic ballots, you – our members – voted to elect four new Trustees: the Rev. Charmaine Penn Johnson, the Rev. Kenneth Makuakane, the Rev. Franz Rigert, and Mr. Scott Young, and to re-elect three existing Trustees: the Rev. Dr. Geneva Butz, Mr. John Kleiman, and the Rev. Dr. Leslie Schenk. We thank all of you who took the time to vote and those who attended the Annual Meeting. [CLICK HERE to read the Report of the President/CEO]

Newly-elected and re-elected Trustees officially began their terms of service on your behalf when the Board of Trustees held its first virtual meeting on Friday, May 15. A key agenda item at that meeting was a progress report on the 2020 strategic plan, including updates on some of the projects and enhancements we have shared with you in recent weeks in areas such as billing, information technology, customer service, health plans, communications, and faith and finance. I am pleased to report that even with the disruption of the past two months, our staff teams are meeting milestones as we work together to create systems and processes to better meet the needs of members, employers, and all settings of the church in these changing times. The Pension Boards exists to serve you! I invite you to view this brief video recorded by some of the colleagues who have been responding to you and helping resolve your concerns in recent weeks.

Staff are now in their tenth week of working remotely. We have developed a phased Return-to-Work plan. Phase 1 will be implemented with a few staff who perform essential functions, who will be in the office on a schedule to be determined. The governor of New York has extended the stay-at-home “pause” until June 13 for the several regions in the lower part of the state, including the metropolitan New York City area, where our main offices are located. Following the lifting of restrictions, we will implement Phase 2 of our plan with a small cohort of colleagues in order to maintain social distancing safety measures in the workplace. The remainder of staff will continue to work remotely for the time being. We will keep you apprised as the re-entry plan unfolds.

Be sure to visit the Pension Boards’ COVID-19 News and Information web page for current information on benefits and resources available to UCC employees and employers, or contact us at 1.800.642.6543 if you have any questions or need assistance.

Thank you for your ministry, and for your ongoing partnership with the Pension Boards.

Wishing you peace and good health,

Brian R. Bodager

Eight Tips for Managing Your Finances During the Pandemic

Managing your money in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic can seem like a formidable challenge. But even as you and your family face pressing concerns about your income, expenses, debts, as well as retirement and other goals, there are things you can do to maintain financial security in uncertain times. Read this EY article for eight timely tips.

If you have questions about your unique financial situation, please contact an Ernst & Young financial planner, available at no cost to you through our partnership with EY. Visit the EY Navigate™ website ( or call the EY Navigate™ Financial Planner Line at 1.877.927.1047, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (ET).

Which Lifetime Income Annuity is Best for You at Retirement – Basic or Participating?

If you are a Pension Boards member approaching retirement, it is important to understand the two lifetime income annuity options available to you, the Basic Annuity and the Participating Annuity. In this article, the Pension Boards interviews Pension Counselor Anna Blandino to share the differences and benefits of the options so you can make an informed choice suitable to your future.

Q. Anna, as a Pension Counselor, you must receive numerous questions from our members who need assistance with their accounts or in preparing for retirement. But today, we want to focus on the two annuity options offered through the Pension Boards to members at retirement – the Basic Annuity and the Participating Annuity. Please describe these annuities and how they work.
A. The Basic and Participating Annuity options are available to Pension Boards members at the time they elect to convert the monies they have accumulated over a career to a steady stream of lifetime income. These monthly payments provide a lifetime benefit to our members and the joint survivors they select. These payments can vary based on the different investment strategies of the two annuities.

Q. Let’s break it down even further. What is the Basic Annuity?
A. The Basic Annuity is the more secure and steady annuity option where benefits are expected to remain relatively constant through retirement. The underlying investments are fixed-income securities such as U.S. Treasury securities, government agency bonds, corporate and municipal bonds. These investments allow for more stability and less volatility of future monthly benefits. The Fund’s assets are managed by our internal core fixed-income team, by Voya Financial, and three other managers.

Read the full article here >>

Emergency Grants from the Christmas Fund

If you are experiencing a critical situation and need financial assistance, you may be eligible for an Emergency Grant from the Christmas Fund if you are:

  • a currently Authorized Minister in the United Church of Christ;
  • a lay employee of a UCC congregation, Association, Conference, or National Setting with a minimum of 10 years of service;
  • a surviving spouse/partner of the above; or a
  • a Member in Discernment for at least a year.

If you meet the eligibility criteria described above, please contact your Conference staff, who will then reach out to Rev. Krista Betz, the Director of Ministerial Assistance, to begin the process. UCBMA can respond to the increasing requests for assistance because of the generosity of individuals and congregations to the Christmas Fund.

How to Help in This Moment

The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis has made personal finances precarious for many among us. We are receiving a growing number of requests for assistance. If you are able to donate to the Christmas Fund, we urge you to consider a gift now. Your gift will enable emergency financial assistance for those in immediate need.

You can choose to make a secure online gift, or make checks payable to UCBMA, earmarked for The Christmas Fund, then mail to: Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, Christmas Fund, 75 Remittance Drive, Suite 1637, Chicago, IL 60675.

Health Plans

All UCC coverage (health, pharmacy, dental, and vision benefits) remains in place, with no discontinuation or interruption in service.

  • COVID-19 antibody testing is available at no cost to participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plans when prescribed by a physician. Antibody testing involves a blood test, which is different than the nasal swab involved in COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
  • COVID-19 testing, which is available currently at no cost to participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement Plan with Rx, will now include other tests (e.g., flu tests, blood tests, etc.) that are deemed medically appropriate to determine the need for the COVID-19 diagnostic test. Please contact Highmark Member Service at 1.866.763.9471 with any questions.
  • Through May 31, all in-network deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments are waived for participants in the UCC Non-Medicare and Medicare Supplement with Rx Health Plans who require hospitalization following a positive test for COVID-19.
  • The normal copay for telemedicine services through Teladoc is also waived at this time.

If you have any questions, or experience any problems with your health coverage, please contact us at 1.800.642.6543.

A Time for Hope

Mental Health Awareness Month has taken on new meaning this year. We are all facing new challenges and routines, which can lead to anxiety, stress, and loneliness. In a recent Teladoc Health study, almost half of respondents said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily, almost 80% of respondents said that they welcome virtual care to support their mental health needs. If you need to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist about stress or have questions about COVID-19 or another non-emergency illness, visit the Teladoc website or call 1.800.TELADOC (1.800.835.2362). The normal $10 copay for telemedicine services is waived through June 13.

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Your UCC Health Plan has additional mental health resources to assist participants and their covered dependents in coping with the impact of COVID in healthier ways.

  • Mental health and substance abuse services are available through the Non-Medicare Health Plan and Medicare Supplement w/Rx Plan, at the same coverage levels, copayments, and coinsurance levels as physical care. Please check the Plan Highlights booklet for your plan for more information about your coverage.
  • For Non-Medicare Health Plan participants, the Member Assistance Program through Health Advocate provides resources and guidance to help members cope in these unprecedented conditions. Health Advocate also offers short-term counseling. Visit their website or call 1.877.240.6863.

Employer Online Payment Portal

Employers have the option to pay invoices online. If you have not already set up an employer account on our website, click here to register for online bill payment. Select the New User link to register. You will need to have a valid email address on file with the Pension Boards. If we do not have a valid email address, please contact our Member Services team at 1.800.642.6543. If a valid email address is on file, follow the steps to set up your account and create a password. Once registered, follow the steps below to pay your invoice:

  • Select Billing.
  • Select View/Pay Bill to review your list of employees and invoice amounts.
  • If you agree with the total amount displayed, select Pay Now to pay your invoice.
  • Follow the prompts on the screen to set up your payments.

If you have any questions, please contact Member Services at the number listed above.

Member Services

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Our full Member Services staff team is available as before to take your calls and answer any questions you may have. They may be reached at 1.800.642.6543 as well as on the online chat function on our website.

During this time, please remember that you can fax or email documents and forms to us at 212.729.2701 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., respectively, avoiding delays that may occur with postal mail.

Stay informed. Visit the Pension Boards’ website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.