Eligibility Guidance for Upcoming School Year

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As the 2020-21 school year approaches, the SEBB Program has received several inquiries about the duration of the COVID-19 eligibility from recent legislation (ESHB 6189), including during public comment at a recent SEB Board meeting.

In a typical year, a SEBB organization must make an eligibility determination for that school year for all school employees (all certificated and classified staff, as well as substitutes). Thus, every school year eligibility “reboots” and a new benefits determination is made for the new school year. Once a school employee is determined to be benefits eligible, they have benefits until the end of that school year, unless the employment relationship is terminated or the position/work of the employee is fundamentally changed such that the employee is no longer anticipated to work 630 hours in the school year.

However, the upcoming year is shaping up to be anything but a typical year due to COVID-19. There are special COVID-19 impacts that apply right now. Under ESSB 6189 Section 5 (passed in March 2019 as the pandemic was ramping up):  

(1) A school employee eligible as of February 29, 2020, for the employer contribution towards benefits offered by the school employees' benefits board shall maintain their eligibility for the employer contribution under the following circumstances directly related or in response to the governor's February 29, 2020, proclamation of a state of emergency….

(2) Requirements in subsection (1) of this section expires when the governor's state of emergency related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) ends.

This COVID statutory language essentially works as an exception to the annual eligibility reboot process as described above. Therefore, benefits should be maintained into the next school year according to the language in ESSB 6189, for employees who had eligibility as of 2/29/2020. Unless, of course, the employment relationship has terminated.

For more information, please be sure to attend the August 7th webinar.

Regards and stay safe and healthy.

-SEBB Program