This message was sent to faculty and staff on behalf of Provost Rogan Kersh and Executive Vice President Hof Milam on May 5, 2020.
Dear Wake Forest faculty and staff,
Over the past two months, so many have worked so hard to sustain and advance the mission of Wake Forest. Thanks also for your efforts to adhere to social distancing practices; the overall health of our community is something for which we can all be grateful. To date, very few cases of COVID-19 infections have been reported among faculty, staff and students. Protecting the health of our community took unprecedented yet necessary steps, and it will take the same degree of commitment to preserve the fiscal health of Wake Forest.
As predicted, revenue losses have mounted, and we are actively managing our budget and finances accordingly. Significant steps have already been taken, including pausing hiring and constraining spending, and we are grateful to each of you for your compliance with those measures. We have now completed the process of issuing pro rata housing and dining refunds of nearly $10 million to our undergraduate students. We were grateful that more than $200,000 of those refunds was returned as a donation to the Wake Forest Crisis Response Fund. However, more steps are needed, and we remain vigilant in looking for ways we can improve our fiscal integrity.
In our April 8 message about the financial situation facing the University, we noted that a team was researching the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the largest federal relief legislation in history, allocating more than $2 trillion to help people and organizations overcome the pandemic’s short-term financial impact. The CARES Act provides federal funding to help support student expenses related to the disruption of campus operations, and to offset specified revenue losses. Additionally, the CARES Act provides two programs of support that can help Wake Forest and our employees who, because of the pandemic, are unable to work remotely or who are working fewer hours: voluntary furloughs and payroll tax credits. Each of these programs is potentially beneficial to both the University as a whole and those individuals who qualify for them; employees of all types and job classifications are eligible. Based upon the nature of the work performed by employees within each unit, implementation options are available to each dean and vice president. Deans and vice presidents will share details about how voluntary furloughs and payroll tax credits will be implemented in each school or division, with consideration for the unique circumstances of each unit across our campus.
The CARES Act provides eligible employees who, due to the nature of their work, are not able to work right now, $600 per week, supplementing the up to $350 per week unemployment benefit from the state of North Carolina. Our employees who make less than $49,400 per year may qualify to receive up to $950 per week in combined unemployment benefits through July 25, which is more than their current Wake Forest pay rate. Furloughs may also be structured in a way that does not diminish income for employees who make more than $49,400.
The furlough must be an official leave without pay from Wake Forest in order to qualify for CARES Act funds. However, participation in the health care plan will be sustained at the University’s expense through the period of furlough, and employees will receive credit for a continuation of service, meaning there will be no impact on PTO accrual, time in service or tuition remission status due to the furlough.
Payroll Tax Credits
Additionally, the CARES Act provides relief to organizations that continue to pay employees who may be working fewer hours because of the pandemic. Wake Forest could be eligible to receive up to a $5,000 tax credit payment for each employee in this status. Each vice president and dean has been asked to explore the possibilities for individuals to go on “COVID-19 Leave with Pay” between now and December 31 for reduced work schedules.
Voluntary furloughs and payroll tax credits are two of the many steps the University is taking to preserve the fiscal health of Wake Forest. Deans and vice presidents will seek implementation options that maximize the potential benefits for the schools and units within their area of responsibility, eligible individuals, and the University.
We are deeply grateful for everything you are doing to sustain our financial integrity, culture and values through these trying times. We very much look forward to the day when we can resume normal activities on campus. Until then, we wish good health and safety to you and your families.
Executive Vice President