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How does the Employee Hardship Fund work?

by September 5, 2017

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center Faculty and Staff Hardship Fund is experiencing increased demands for financial assistance at a time when few employees are regularly contributing.

The fund helps with unexpected financial emergencies

About 15 Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) employees currently make payroll deductions to the fund, said Jim Kendall, LCSW, CWAP, manager of Work/Life Connections.

“If you figure we have 20,000 employees, if each employee gave $2 a year, we would be able to pretty much meet the needs with some of the other things we have going on,” Kendall said. “That’s not a lot. We would be in hog heaven if half that number gave $1 a month.”

“The fund particularly helps those who are living paycheck to paycheck. This is one of the major ways we can help each other.”

The fund, which was established in 1994, assists employees experiencing a temporary hardship due to a significant life event. To qualify, an employee must have been at VUMC for at least a year and be in good standing. The fund does not assist with chronic financial difficulty that occurs when someone’s expenses regularly exceed his or her income.

“One of the criteria is that an individual has a hardship that could not have been predicted,” Kendall said. “Normally, that employee is doing OK but something comes along that throws him or her off. We don’t pay the employee. We pay a bill, and it goes through our accounting system.”

Those hardships may include getting caught up with bills after an illness or accident, covering the cost of burial expenses after the death of a child or coming up with money to relocate after being displaced from affordable housing.

“The fund particularly helps those who are living paycheck to paycheck,” Kendall said. “This is one of the major ways we can help each other.”

Jim Kendall, LCSW

A committee of six employee volunteers reviews applications to the hardship fund without knowing the names of the applicants. Any identifying information on the applications is blocked out.

While the fund typically experiences an increase in donations during the end of the year holidays, the needs remain constant. There has been an uptick in employees seeking assistance with moving expenses who have been displaced by redevelopment within Nashville’s urban core.

“People are being displaced from housing that they can afford,” Kendall said. “They are told they have to move out quickly. They haven’t anticipated that they are going to have moving expenses or they have to put down deposits. We have helped a few people in those situations. Each one is a different set of circumstances. The committee weighs it very carefully. We have a limited pool of resources.”

Contributions are not tax deductible according to Internal Revenue Service guidelines because it is an employer-administrated and supported fund.

The fund has proven to be a good retention tool because it instills loyalty and helps solidify a sense of community, Kendall said.

There are several ways employees can support the fund.

  • Payroll deduction donation: Contact connections@vanderbilt.edu or call 615-936-1327 for details.
  • Kroger Plus Card: Designate the Vanderbilt Faculty and Hardship Fund as the recipient of the Kroger Community Rewards program. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/usac/initiatives/kroger-rewards.php
  • Recycle used ink cartridges: You can also call Guy Brown at 615-777-1500 or email Guy Brown Customer Care to get boxes for laser and ink jet toner cartridges with pre-paid, pre-addressed labels delivered to you free of charge. Additionally, you can download a pre-paid shipping label here.  The labels are coded to say that they came from VU so they know to give the proceeds to the Monroe Carell Jr. Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Susan Gray School and the Work/Life Connections Faculty and Staff Hardship Fund.
  • Drop in the bucket: The Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital gift shop has a donation box next to the cash register.

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