OEA Coronavirus FAQ

As part of OEA’s commitment to monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on our members, we want to address the impact that the mandatory COVID-19 school closures may have on you, and provide you with ways to advocate for yourself during this public health crisis.

OEA is continuing to advocate with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Ohio legislature, and leaders from other statewide education associations, for appropriate flexibility in the delivery of special education services. Additionally, OEA is working with the NEA to advocate for temporary flexibility at the federal level to ensure that all students can access the best education possible during these unprecedented circumstances.

OEA strongly recommends that members contact their local association presidents and LRC’s when they have questions and/or concerns regarding any educational, workplace, or health and safety issue during the mandated COVID-19 school closure.

Jump to a section:

About the Statewide Closure  |  General Employee Questions |  Licensed Employee Questions

Support Staff Questions  |  Teacher Initial Licensure Questions  |  Student Issues

Serving Students with Disabilities  |  Distance Education  |  Retirement Questions

Additional Resources


Will schools remain closed for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year?

Governor DeWine announced on Monday, April 20th that Ohio schools will remain closed for the 2019 – 2020 school year. Later that day, The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) announced that all of its sanctioned spring sports and postseason tournaments would also be canceled.

Do schools have to extend the school year?

School districts are required to utilize the makeup plan they created prior to August 1, 2019 (ORC 3313.482). HB 197 permits school districts and schools other than e-schools to use distance learning to make up for any missed days or hours of instruction caused by the ordered closure of Ohio schools.

Are virtual schools included in the closure?

No. The Governor’s order applies to school buildings only. Internet- or computer-based schools should continue operations in their normal fashion according to their regular calendar.

If virtual schools are not included in the shutdown, what about college online classes?

Online or distance learning is recommended during the shutdown, check with your higher education provider for their guidelines and processes during the shutdown.

Will the state provide annual report cards for the 2019-2020 school year?

For the 2019-20 school year, HB 197 prohibits the Ohio Department of Education from publishing and issuing ratings for overall grades, components, and individual measures on the state report cards, report cards for dropout recovery schools, report cards for joint vocational school districts and other career-technical planning districts, and submitting preliminary data for report cards for school districts and buildings. Furthermore, HB 197 permits the State Superintendent to waive the requirement to complete any report based on data from assessments that were to be administered in the 2019-2020 school year.

What are the requirements for the Board of Education to hold open meetings electronically?

Local governments, including school boards, who choose to hold electronic meetings in lieu of in-person meetings, due to public gathering restrictions, must meet the following requirements:

  • Members attending the meeting through the body’s chosen electronic method count as present and count toward a quorum. They are permitted to vote on any issues that come before the body.
  • Any resolution, rule or other formal action taken or adopted by the public body during such a session will have the same effect as one taken during an in-person meeting.
  • The public body is required to give notice of the meeting to the media and other parties requiring notice at least 24 hours before it takes place. In an emergency situation, the public body must give notice as soon as practical.
  • Members of the public must be provided access to the public body’s discussions and deliberations conducted via the electronic method to the same extent that they would get from attending in person. That includes the ability for the viewer/listener to hear every member participating in person or electronically. Examples of electronic methods that afford public access (and that are cited in the law) include live-streaming via the internet; local radio, television, cable or public access channels; and calling in to a teleconference.
  • For a public hearing, the electronic method the public body uses for the meeting must be widely available to the public and must permit the public to converse with witnesses and receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

These requirements remain in place until the Governor removes the “State of Emergency” or December 20, 2020, whichever comes first.

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Are employees required to come to work during the statewide shutdown?

It depends. Institutions may remain open for the purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of 6 feet per person is maintained to the greatest extend possible. Section 12 (m) of the order specifies that “Educational institutions” are included in the meaning of “Essential Businesses and Operations.” This paragraph states:

“Educational institutions. Educational institutions-including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities – for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This Order is consistent with and does not amend or supersede prior Orders regarding the closure of schools;”

This language allows individuals to leave their homes for the purpose of continuing to support “work to provide education through alternative means,” as suggested by the governor on March 12. However, whenever possible, any work that can be done by a teacher or staff member from home should be done from home. If a teacher or staff member must report to school for purposes of the activities mentioned above, he or she should strictly adhere to social distancing recommendations and other instructions from the Ohio Department of Health for reducing the spread of disease.

Will dates for normal pay schedule change because of the statewide closure?

No. The pay schedule is established in the collective bargaining agreement. Collective bargaining agreements continue to remain in effect during the coronavirus pandemic.

Can the Board of Education unilaterally change the terms of my collective bargaining agreement (e.g. evaluation requirements)?

No. All terms and conditions of employment contained within a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) remain in full force until a modification has been negotiated and ratified by the Board of Education and the Exclusive Representative (union). Terms and conditions of employment that are not contained within a CBA, and fall within “management rights” under Ohio Rev. Code 4417.08, could be subject to Board discretion and implementation. If you believe your contractual rights have been violated, contact your local president or OEA Labor Relations Consultant to discuss the specific circumstances of your situation.

What happens when a member is diagnosed with or comes in contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19?

If employees are currently working remotely, onsite, or otherwise, the diagnosis of COVID-19 is covered as a contagious disease under Ohio Rev. Code 3319.141 and federal law. Therefore, if an employee is unable to work or tele-work they would be eligible to use sick leave. If an employee is without sick leave, the provisions of sick leave advancement under a local’s CBA or Ohio Rev. Code 3319.141, whichever provides a greater benefit, would apply. The illness also falls under the provisions of the recently enacted expansion of FMLA benefits.

Does the school closure impact my STRS/SERS/PERS service credit?

No. All employees who were working prior to the school closure should be “in paid status”. The minimum requirement for a year of service credit under STRS and SERS is 120 days of paid status. Assuming someone began working at the beginning of the school year, this requirement has likely been achieved. OPERS members accrue service credit based upon months worked. If there is no change in employment status and pay, there should be no impact on accrued OPERS credit.

Can I take FMLA leave to care for my child during the COVID-19 epidemic?

Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provides that until December 31, 2020, employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days are eligible for leave under FMLA because of a qualifying need related to a public health emergency. Specifically, if an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age because the school or place of care has been closed, then they would be eligible for this leave.

Does the “stay at home” order apply to teachers and education support professionals (ESPs)?

No. Education Institutions are considered “essential business” under the order. The State of Ohio is requiring that employers provide safeguards including:

  • Allowing as many employees as possible to work from home
  • Actively encourage employees who may be sick to stay home
  • Separate employees who may have acute respiratory illness symptoms from other employees
  • Perform enhanced cleaning protocols of commonly touched surfaces
  • 6 ft minimum working distance from another person.

Can I change my health flexible spending account (HFSA) election for this year?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on May 12, 2020, that allows employees to make a new election (enroll for the first time), decrease or increase an existing election (change contribution amounts), or revoke (cancel the election). For those individuals decreasing or eliminating their election, any change cannot reduce the annual election below what has already been spent out of the account.

Plans that allow a carryover into the next plan year for use, the amount allowed for carryover into the plan year beginning in 2021 has been increased to $550 and will be adjusted annually thereafter, indexed to inflation. This is a permanent change to IRS regulations.

Plans that allow a grace period into the next plan year, and the plan year or the grace period ended in calendar year 2020, have the ability to use those funds until December 31, 2020. This may increase the time period for most plans from the previous requirement to use the funds within 2 ½ months following the end of the plan year. This is a temporary change to IRS regulations.

The employer must make a change to their Section 125 plan document to implement the allowable changes. If you have questions or concerns regarding how this change affects you, contact your local president or LRC.

Can I change my dependent care assistance program (DCAP) election for this year?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on May 12, 2020, that allows employees to make a new election (enroll in a DCAP for the first time), decrease or increase an existing election (change contribution amounts), or revoke (cancel the election). There was no change to the $5000 limit for contributions to the DCAP. The employer must make a change to their Section 125 plan document to implement this change. If you have questions or concerns regarding how this change affects you, contact your local president or LRC.

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Do teachers get paid if they are not working?

Yes. Ohio Rev. Code 3319.08 requires teachers to be paid for all time lost when a school is closed due to an epidemic or other public calamity.

Does this requirement apply to DD certified teachers?

Yes. Because Ohio Administrative Code 3301-53-01 applies Ohio Rev. Code 3313.48 to schools under the DD system, the provisions of 3319.08 also apply.

Can teachers be required to make student packets or conduct remote learning?

Per the governor’s direction on March 12, a good-faith effort to provide continuity of service to students in these facilities would align with the governor’s stated intent that “schools should work to provide education through alternate means.” Consequently, education providers should collaborate with facility operators to identify alternate means to provide educational services to the extent practicable. This could include a “blizzard bag” approach, remote learning, distance learning options, closed-circuit TV, or mail. As much as possible, sending educators to be physically present with students in such settings should be avoided.

My background check is due to be renewed, what should I do?

The Ohio BCI is continuing to conduct background checks on their normal schedule. You should contact your supervisor/principal to determine how the school district is recommending you proceed with fingerprint collection. Alternatively, you can contact BCI at 877-224-0043 for instructions on how to complete your fingerprint collection from home.

How does the school closure impact OTES/OSCES evaluations?

HB 197, signed into law on March 28, 2020, gives the local school board the ability to waive all evaluations if they were not completed prior to March 16, 2020. Any evaluation not completed will result in the individual retaining his or her previous evaluation rating and being evaluated in the 2020-2021 school year.

If my district tells teachers they need to report to school before May 1, what should I do?

The Governor has strongly encouraged the use of remote work assignments whenever possible, and only requires employees onsite who cannot perform their job duties remotely. (Even for these employees, no one who is ill or may have a health condition that makes them particularly susceptible to illness should be required to report to work).

Are employees allowed to donate sick leave to ESP staff?

Sick leave donation policies are established by the collective bargaining agreement. Contract language on this issue varies from district to district, and members should review their collective bargaining agreement in consultation with their local leaders and labor relations consultant to determine if it is possible for certified staff to donate sick days to ESP staff.

Locals that wish to make changes to their sick leave donation policies to meet the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic should work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to address these new circumstances.

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Do classified employees (ESP) get paid if they are not working?

Yes. Ohio Rev. Code 3319.081 requires all classified employees to be paid when a school is closed due to an epidemic or other public calamity. This law applies to non-certificated employees in K-12, JVS, and DD units.

I am an hourly employee and I have had a reduction in my hours, do I qualify for unemployment?

Potentially. Your eligibility and the amount you receive from the State (if any) is dependent on a number of factors, including your normal pay over a period of time, the number of dependents you can claim, and how much your income and work hours have been reduced. If you are eligible for Ohio unemployment, you also are eligible for the federal CARES Act $600 weekly unemployment benefit. The Ohio and Federal unemployment assistance are available, retroactively, to the first date you had reduced income. Unemployment assistance will end with your last scheduled workday for the 2019-2020 school year. You can apply for unemployment by going to unemployment.ohio.gov or by calling 877-644-6562.

Will ESP employees keep health insurance and other benefits during the shutdown?

ESP employees will continue to receive the rights and benefits established by the collective bargaining agreement, including health insurance. Educational Support Professionals are required to be paid for all time lost when a school is closed due to an epidemic or other public calamity (ORC 3319.081). This law applies to non-certificated employees in K-12, JVS, and DD units.

I am an ESP, can sick leave be used during the school closure to replace my paycheck?

Educational Support Professionals are required to be paid for all time lost when a school is closed due to an epidemic or other public calamity (ORC 3319.081). This law applies to non-certificated employees in K-12, JVS, and DD units.

Can staff be required to report to work when schools are closed?

Potentially. There is no statutory guidance on whether staff can be required to report during an epidemic or other public calamity. If a collective bargaining agreement has specific requirements the language should be followed until modified through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Absent contract language, Management does have some flexibility under Ohio Rev. Code 4117.08 to promulgate certain policies or rules.

Do I need to complete my bus driver T-8 physical before June 30?

HB 197 extended the period of time for bus drivers to complete their T-8 physicals until 90 days after the “State of Emergency ends or December 1, 2020, whichever comes sooner. Once the “stay at home” order has been lifted, school districts should notify you about when T-8 physicals will be available to drivers.

My Paraprofessional License expires July 1, how do I get it renewed?

Paraprofessional licenses have been extended past July 1. At the earliest, Paraprofessionals will have until September 1 to renew their license. If the “State of Emergency” extends past June 3, 2020, you must renew with 90 days of the declared end of the emergency, but not later than December 1, 2020.

I am a preschool paraprofessional, how do I complete my required professional development?

Preschool paraprofessionals should work with their Labor Relations Consultant and supervisor to ensure opportunities exist to complete their required professional development. A number of training opportunities are available online and can be done from home during working hours. As of April 16, 2020, the Ohio Department of Education has not extended the timelines for completing professional development for preschool professionals.

My background check is due to be renewed, what should I do?

The Ohio BCI is continuing to conduct background checks on their normal schedule. You should contact your supervisor/principal to determine how the school district is recommending you proceed with fingerprint collection. Alternatively, you can contact BCI at 877-224-0043 for instructions on how to complete your fingerprint collection from home.

What do I need to know about the safety of food service employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Food service workers are playing an essential role in helping our communities endure the COVID-19 pandemic. This PowerPoint was put together by an OEA staff person and includes helpful resources on how food service workers can keep themselves and their communities safe during this challenging time: Click here to view or download the file

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I was scheduled to take a test prior to the closure announcement, will that date change?

The Ohio Department of Education understands the current situation impedes the ability of applicants to take their initial licensure examinations, including the Ohio Assessments for Educators (OAE), American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) testing and others. At this time, it is unknown how long this disruption will last. In response to this unprecedented situation, the Ohio Department of Education has been granted the authority to issue a one-time, one-year temporary license for the 2020-2021 school year to applicants who meet all other qualifications for licensure but have been unable to complete their required initial licensure examinations. Under this one-year temporary license, an applicant can apply to advance his or her license upon successful completion of the required licensure examinations. The Office of Educator Licensure will begin accepting applications for these temporary licenses on May 15, 2020.

Will federal offices remain open for background checks during the closure?

The Ohio Department of Education has been notified by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Identification it is processing background checks at this time. Any applicant who needs to complete a background check should contact BCI at (855) 224-6446 for instructions on how to complete fingerprint collection at home.

I am scheduled to graduate from an Educator Preparation Program (EPP) this spring? Will I still be able to graduate?

EPP students who have made satisfactory progress through at least 50% of the required number of clinical weeks and/or hours and who can demonstrate sufficient mastery of the accompanying outcomes through alternative experiences provided by their college or university will be eligible for licensure recommendation.

If an EPP student has not completed 50% of the required clinical weeks and/or hours, ODHE is temporarily allowing colleges and universities flexibility regarding the number of clinical weeks and/or hours or that candidates must complete to be eligible for an education license or endorsement. Colleges and universities may provide alternative instruction, experiences and assignments that will allow students to demonstrate mastery of expected outcomes as an alternative to the traditional field experiences.

Will RESA score reports be released on schedule?

The RESA score reports are scheduled to be released on April 24, 2020.

What provisions/exemptions are being considered if there are Resident Educator mentoring and/or leadership activities that cannot be completed due to the mandated COVID-19 school closures?

Completion Criteria for the Resident Educator (RE) Program are determined at the local level by the school district. ODE has acknowledged that during the mandated COVID-19 school closures revisions to local expectations may need to occur. Therefore, each school district will need to determine what adjustments, if any, will need to be made to their local requirements, and use their “best judgement” when making any revisions to local requirements. Please note that the Completion Criteria window in CORE will close on May 31, 2020.

My teaching license is coming up for renewal, what should I do?

Recently enacted legislation provides flexibility on licensure and renewal deadlines. All licenses currently set to expire on July 1, 2020, will have their expiration dates extended to Sept. 1, 2020. This extension will allow educators additional time to complete renewal requirements. It is important educators complete and submit applications by Sept. 1, 2020.

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If my district/school building is closed to students and is NOT offering educational support to any students, do I need to offer special education services?

No. When a district or school has closed its buildings to students and educational services are not provided to any student, specially designed instruction and related services are not required to be provided to students with disabilities.

If a school building is closed to students, but the district is offering educational services to students, must the district provide special education services to students with IEP’s?

Yes. If, during building closures, school districts are offering instruction to students, districts must make every effort to provide special education services to students with IEP’s. Schools will need to determine how these services are offered to students with IEP’s on a case-by-case basis.

How must services to students with disabilities be provided when schools or districts provide alternative means of education during the mandated school closure?

If a school district chooses to educate students through online or distance learning in place of in-person instruction, the same online or distance learning options for students with disabilities must be provided. The school or district should make a good faith effort within available capabilities to meet Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) requirements for students with disabilities when providing instruction through alternatives means.

If a student is medically fragile, the IEP team may want to reconvene and discuss a temporary change of placement for the child during the ordered school-building closure period. The IEP meeting can be held according to the provisions outlined in these FAQ’s.

How Should Educators Work to Communicate with Students, Parents, and Guardians?

Recognizing the value and importance of having ongoing communication with parents/guardians regarding their student’s education and safety, communication may occur through a variety of means (phone calls, mail, digital, etc.). It is important to ensure all communication is for educational purposes, is placed in an educator communication log, and conforms with district policies regarding confidentiality. Educators should never use their own digital devices, or personal web/application accounts to communicate with students. Parents/guardians should always be the main point of contact. Educators should not be communicating directly with students, especially for non-educational purposes.

Will timelines for Evaluation Team Report’s (ETR) be waived during the mandatory school closure period?

ODE has indicated that every attempt must be made to meet the 60-day timeline as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3301-51-061.

Reviews of ETR’s can be completed either virtually or via phone. Please follow FERPA requirements for these meetings. From ODE: “Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned signature, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means.” This provision allows all members of the team to complete their meeting requirements away from a school building, thus eliminating the need to travel to school buildings during this health emergency.

Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place during the ordered school-building closure, as long as the student’s parent or legal guardian grants consent. The coordinator of the ETR evaluation or re-evaluation meeting must get consent from the parent or legal guardian before completing the ETR.

If a face-to-face assessment or observation is required for the ETR, “the evaluation will need to be delayed until the ordered school-building closure ends.” This is per ODE.

What considerations must be made regarding Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) during this mandated school closure period?

School or district personnel should review each IEP to determine the type and frequency of services each student will require during the ordered school building-closure period. Participation in the meeting can occur via phone or virtually.

If adjustments to specialized services are needed, school personnel should convene the IEP team either by phone or virtually to review and determine specific services that will be provided during the ordered school-building closure period. The IEP should be revised accordingly.

IEP annual reviews can be completed using a virtual format or via telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned document, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means, and the method of IEP team review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice form (PR01).

What will happen with state and other testing?

HB 197 exempts all schools from administering state tests for the 2019-2020 school year, including state achievement tests, alternative assessments, OELPA and WebXams.

Prohibits the Department of Education from subtracting from a district or school’s state aid account for students who were unable to complete assessments.

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What are school district requirements for new preschool special education referrals and IDEA Part C transitions during the mandated school closure?

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recognizes that schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they typically are provided. School district personnel and parents are being asked to work collaboratively during the mandated school closure to provide services for students with disabilities. Districts are encouraged to complete as much of the referral and/or transition process as possible in accordance with ODE guidance for considering the safety of staff and students, completing meetings virtually, and as outlined in their guidance document Considerations for Students with Disabilities During Ohio’s School-Building Closure.

Do we need to complete the child outcomes summary process for all eligible children and enter scores for the spring 2020 data reporting assessment window?

Please see the changes below.

  • For children entering Preschool Special Education during the mandated school closure, school districts should make good faith efforts to complete the eligibility determination process following the ODE guidance linked above. If the child is coming from Part C and the data is accessible, you may use the Exit Child Outcomes Summary Form information. If you are planning for the evaluation to determine eligibility, evaluation data can be used to complete this Child Outcomes Summary. If the evaluation cannot be completed due to the mandated school closure, the Child Outcomes Summary process can be completed at the conclusion of the mandated school closure period.
  • If a child’s annual Child Outcomes Summary process is due now, the annual Child Outcomes Summary process will not be required during the mandated school closure. There is no expectation to complete or report an annual Child Outcomes Summary process for any child whose annual Child Outcomes Summary is due during the school-building closure.
  • If a child is due to exit Preschool Special Education now, the Child Outcomes Summary process should be completed with information that is available virtually, by telephone, or by other safe means. Scores based on the Child Outcomes Summary process can be entered between now and when school starts for the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • For a child who has a Child Outcomes Summary process completed during the mandated school closure, the Early Learning Assessment is not a required source of evidence for spring 2020. Please refer to the ODE provided Child Outcomes Policy for other sources of information that should be used.

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What is distance education?

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio, all public, community, and private K-12 schools were ordered closed. This order included an expectation that schools continue to provide education to students through alternative means.  There are many terms to describe the alternative means that Ohio’s educators are using to teach students during this crisis, (e.g., remote, online, virtual, etc.). More broadly, Ohio’s educators are engaged in implementing various forms of distance education. That is, “Teaching and planned learning in which the teaching normally occurs in a different place from learning, requiring communication through technologies, as well as special institutional organization” (i.e. schools/universities).

Is the internet the only approach to distance education?

Infrastructures such as high speed internet, access to Wi-Fi networks, and mobile hotspots support the delivery of online curriculum and online classes.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  reports that 90%  of the world’s student population (approximately 1.5 billion  students) are affected by nationwide school closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The variations of the offline infrastructures in communities without internet include approaches such as: packets (daily/weekly) pickup/distribution via bus routes, mail (pre-stamped envelopes), telephone, instructional TV, etc.

Has the Ohio Department of Education provided distance education guidance to schools and districts?

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has prepared a list of resources.  The Remote Learning Resource Guide is available on the ODE website: http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Student-Supports/Coronavirus/Remote-Learning-Resource-Guide.pdf.aspx?lang=en-US

Where can I find more resources about different aspects of distance education?

The National Education  Association has a curation of articles, links, resources, and webinars available on the NEA website: http://neatoday.org/2020/03/16/resources-for-online-learning-during-school-closures/

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I am set to retire at the end of this school year; will the closure impact my retirement plan?

No. As long as you continue to be “in paid status” through the end of the school year, your Final Average Salary (FAS) will not be impacted. OPERS members accrue service credit based upon months worked. If there is no change in employment status and pay, there should be no impact on accrued OPERS credit or calculation of your benefit.

Does the CARES Act impact my 403(b) or 457(b) plan?

Yes. The Cares Act provided temporary relief to COVID-19 impacted individuals by expanding opportunities for loans, in-service distributions, and suspending required minimum distributions. A bulletin outlining the CARES Act impact on your 403(b) or 457(b) is available HERE. Contact your OEA Labor Relations Consultant for more information or assistance in discussing plan design changes with your school district

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