Q&A for Faculty and Staff

This page contains a selection of questions and answers that NMU has received from faculty and staff. Our complete COVID-19 frequently asked questions is a comprehensive list of questions and answers and should be referred to if you don't find your question on this page.


Employees and workforce

What is being done to protect employees?

Keeping NMU employees and students safe is the top priority for Northern Michigan University.

NMU is working in accordance with Governor Whitmer’s executive “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which is effective from Tuesday March 24 through Thursday, May 28. The full executive order is available at Executive Order 2020-69. Many of our buildings are closed or working with minimum staff to remain operational. NMU faculty and staff will be mostly working from home. Refer to the University FAQ page for current campus operations.

What is the plan regarding essential employees?

Essential employees have been receiving training, information and, in some cases, safety provisions to prepare them to work in a possibly deteriorating environment. Each area is following emergency plans specific to their unit and essential employees should contact their direct supervisor or unit manager to ask specific questions related to their job and role as an essential employee.

Can job interviews for open positions be conducted on campus?

As of Monday, March 16, Northern is instituting a hiring freeze and an interviewing freeze for all positions except those that impact health, safety and business continuity, including hiring so that class can continue to be offered. Questions about position searches moving forward or being delayed should be brought to your division leader.

Should I tell my student employees to file for Michigan unemployment?

Student employees may or may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. That determination is made by the state, and there are specific earnings requirements that need to be met in order to qualify. NMU provides earnings information as requested by the state. It is important that you not promise any student workers that they will get unemployment, as that may not be the case.


Benefits

Since the University is telling employees who are sick to stay home, do I have to use my sick leave?

Yes. If you are sick you should remain at home and get well, and using your sick leave enables you to be paid while you are unable to work. The University provides employees sick leave for the very purpose to use when you are sick.

How can I find out more about the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

Employees may read the Family First Coronavirus Response Act Employee Rights poster, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Frequently Asked Questions page, or may contact Kim Hongisto, Human Resources Benefits Assistant, at 227-2470 to discuss individualized situations.

What is a medical accommodation?

Northern has a medical accommodations process for employees with medical conditions that affect their working situation. If you have a medical condition, even if you are already working remotely, work with Human Resources to complete the medical accommodation process.  The Human Resources Office can be reached at hr@nmu.edu, 906-227-2330. 

Will the COVID-19 Test be covered by our insurance?

Yes.  For physician authorized COVID-19 testing, the cost sharing amounts for tests and associated services are waived until the end of the public health emergency.  This is part of a federal mandate and Blue Cross will continue to cover as long as the mandate is in place.

Will treatment for COVID-19 be covered by our insurance?

Yes.  For physician authorized COVID-19 treatment the cost share waiver has been extended through December 31, 2020.  Blue Cross will be reimbursing members that have cost share applied for dates of service between July 1st and December 31st, 2020.  Blue Cross will send you a letter along with a check if cost share was applied.

Can I get the blood-antibody test?

NMU Health Center is conducting blood-antibody testing for staff, faculty, and their immediate family members who carry NMU health insurance fully covered. Testing for non-NMU insurance holders remains prohibitively expensive due to the tests being processed at an outside lab. Contact the Health Center at 227-2355 or x2355 to schedule a 15-minute lab appointment if you wish to participate.

If my doctor wants to schedule an appointment with me over the phone, will our Blue Cross plan cover this type of visit?

Yes. This type of appointment with your in-network doctor is known as telehealth medical services and Blue Cross has temporarily waived the employee co-pay amount through at least June 30, 2020.  This also includes the most common behavioral health therapy services for telehealth as well as adding the most common medical services.

Am I permitted to increase or decrease my election for my dependent care flexible spending account (FSA) or cancel my election entirely due to closures and/or re-opening of my daycare facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes.   Effective July 1, 2020 participating employees in the dependent care FSA may make mid-year election changes on a prospective basis until the end of this calendar year.  With respect to the dependent care FSA, employees may 1) revoke an election entirely; or 2) decrease or increase an existing election.  An existing election may not be decreased to an amount that would not cover amounts already reimbursed.  In addition, employees not currently participating may now enroll.   If you are interested in making any changes, please e-mail Kimberly Hongisto, Benefits Assistant, at khongist@nmu.edu and she will send you the appropriate change form.

Am I permitted to increase or decrease my election for my health care flexible spending account (FSA) or cancel my election entirely due to the cancellation or rescheduling of medical procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes.  Effective July 1, 2020 participating employees in an FSA plan may make mid-year election changes on a prospective basis until the end of this calendar year.  With respect to the health care FSA, employees may 1) revoke an election entirely; or 2) decrease or increase an existing election.  An existing election may not be decreased to an amount that would not cover amounts already reimbursed.   In addition, employees not currently participating may now enroll.  If you are interested in making any changes, please e-mail Kimberly Hongisto, Benefits Assistant, at khongist@nmu.edu and she will send you the appropriate change form.

What effect does the CARES Act have on my health care flexible spending account (FSA)?

Within the CARES Act are provisions that may help faculty and staff who are enrolled in a health care flexible spending account (FSA) with takecare Wageworks.  The following provisions are included in the Act:

  • The use of health care FSA funds to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines without a prescription from a physician.
  • Adds feminine hygiene products, including tampons, pads, liners, and similar products, to the list of OTC items eligible for reimbursement from a health care FSA.

The OTC changes are effective for expenses incurred after December 31, 2019.  

Using your takecare VISA card (debit card) for OTC drugs without a prescription and menstrual products is dependent on the updated eligible product list managed by the Special Interest Group for IIAS Standards (SIGIS), then merchants updating their systems. In the interim, members will need to submit manual claims with the proper documentation.

What effect does the CARES Act have on my TIAA 403(b) Retirement Plan?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the largest stimulus package ever enacted in the United States and is aimed at providing financial relief to individuals, businesses, healthcare, and education sectors.  The CARES Act allows retirement plan participants to take a Coronavirus-related distribution or retirement plan loan.  Participants will need to certify their eligibility with TIAA.  To learn more about your options, see the Provisions Affecting Retirement Plans or, visit TIAA and click the Learn More Button under "Guiding You Through Turbulent Times."  Feel free to contact Kristen Bjorne at 227-1030 or e-mail kportale@nmu.edu with any questions.


Travel matters

Explain Northern’s current travel restrictions.

Per the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Northern has suspended all university-sponsored air and ship travel, both domestic and international, for students, faculty and staff until further notice.

What is meant by university-sponsored travel?

University-sponsored travel means some level of funding of the travel is coming from Northern Michigan University.

Is it OK for job candidates, guest speakers and others to travel to campus?

As of March 16, Northern is restricting all university-sponsored travel to campus for job candidates, guest speakers, student-athlete recruits and others with the exception of situations directly related to health, safety and business continuance. Contact the President’s Office (227-2244, NMUPres@nmu.edu) for exception approvals until further notice.

Should I travel abroad for a personal trip?

With the COVID-19 virus at a pandemic level, according to the World Health Organization, Northern strongly encourages its students, faculty and staff to be aware of the risk of travel of any kind, both domestic and international, as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide and is now reported in all US states.

What is the NMU International Travel Registry?

The NMU International Travel Registry is a database maintained by the University to record general travel itinerary information for student, faculty and staff travel, both university sponsored and personal, so that Northern has the information it needs to contact individuals in the event of an emergency or to pass along information being received from the U.S. State Department, Homeland Security, the CDC, WHO and other agencies before, during and after the travel period regarding the travel destination. During the COVID-19 emergency, Northern has been using the NMU International Travel Registry to record domestic travel to and from high-risk areas, as well, as a way to communicate information quickly to travelers as needed. The Registry can be accessed through the MyNMU portal. Submission to the NMU International Travel Registry is required for university-sponsoring international travel by students, faculty and staff for funding reimbursement.


Additional Resources:

University COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Telecommuting Tips and Checklists

Managing your Stress and Anxiety