AFA Benefits Committee Update
Because of the complex interaction between the administration of the various state unemployment insurance (UI) programs; the components of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; and the Company’s response to claims, AFA Horizon leadership can neither provide definitive advice for filing UI claims nor assurance of receiving a benefit. The information provided in this communication does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. We will, however, provide as much information as we can and be as transparent as possible about the options.
Thank you for your patience
Many of you are looking to AFA for insight into staffing projections and for guidance whether to apply for one of the COVID-19 leaves of absence (or potentially to extend if you are already on one), the COVID-19 Staffing Reduction leave of absence (LOA) or the Reduced Credit (Part-Time) Option…or to hold out for the potential of “something else.” The Master Executive Council (MEC) sincerely thank you for your patience while we’ve worked to understand all the pieces of the puzzle and to determine management’s intent. We know the deadline to apply for the June COVID-19 Capacity Reduction LOA or the Reduced Credit Option is very soon: Friday, May 1, 2020 at 9 AM PT for the LOA and April 30th at Noon for the Reduced Credit Option.
No paid voluntary capacity reduction or “Early Out”
As of this writing, there is no “something else” pending in the near future: neither a paid voluntary staffing reduction leave nor an early retirement (“Early Out”) package. AFA initiated preliminary discussions with management about an Early Out given it was removed from the Tentative Agreement, but management is not interested in actively exploring an AFA-driven retirement package at this time. The MEC is aware that management is developing a Company-wide incentive for early retirement, but they have not provided any additional details.
May and June scheduling and pay
Individual Lineholders will receive a line award of no less than 69.3 credit. Individual Reduced Credit (part time) Lineholders will receive a line award of no less than 34.6 credit. The number of reserves is expected to dramatically increase in all bases as it did for the May bid. Even with LOAs and increased Reduced Credit bidders, we’re anticipating at least a 70% reduction in flying which equates to an approximate 70% reduction in credit available to bid for in PBS. This means there will be less than 30% of the normal amount of flying to bid for. PBS will build as many pairing lines as it can in seniority order. Once it has exhausted all pairings, it will build reserve lines for the remaining FAs. Reserves are guaranteed 71.6 credit and part time reserve lines will have a 37.6 credit hour guarantee per bid month.
No involuntary furloughs?
Airlines (and airport companies that employ workers) may access federal aid for the sole purpose of continuing pay and benefits for employees. A condition of airlines accepting payroll grant money under the CARES Act is that the accepting airline may not involuntarily furlough or reduce pay rates and benefits for US-based workers through September 30, 2020. Air Group has gone on record that the AAG applied for the aid money. We have not received confirmation that the money has been deposited by AAG, but we believe we should receive this confirmation within the next day or two.
Unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act
Unemployment benefits are determined by the state in which you are domiciled
There are several increased unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under the CARES Act (or COVID-19 Relief Act). UI benefit eligibility, payments and duration of benefits vary by state. The number or proportion of reduced hours to qualify for UI benefits such as under the Reduced Credit Option also varies by state. UI benefits are determined by the state in which you are domiciled and not the state in which you reside, if that is a different state.
UI benefits are very likely for voluntary or involuntary leaves or reduction in hours due to COVID-19
If you take a voluntary or involuntary leave or a reduction in hours because of COVID-19 (that reason is key), then you are very likely eligible for UI benefits under the CARES Act. However, you are probably ineligible for the COVID-19 UI benefits if you are receiving paid sick leave or other forms of paid leave (such as when coordinating sick leave or vacation). Most states have loosened or eliminated job search requirements to be eligible for unemployment related to COVID-19.
Unemployment Insurance typically does not cover employees who took a leave or left their jobs voluntarily unless it was in response to the COVID-19 downturn. It is crucial when applying for UI benefits that you state as often as you can that you are on a leave/furlough/reduction in hours “due to COVID-19.” Additionally, if you are denied, it is important to have the verification letter stating the leave/furlough/reduction in hours is due to COVID-19.
Management to “remain neutral” on unemployment claim
Management has committed to “remain neutral” on unemployment claims, which means the Company will not contest claims and therefore the state will exclusively determine eligibility for UI benefits. The MEC is aware of a popular misconception that the state will automatically deny UI benefits if the employer reports the leave as voluntary, but that is not true.
Reason provided by the Company for the LOA or reduction in hours
Management has informed AFA that the Company will provide the state with the following reason for the respective leave of absence (LOA) or reduction in hours:
- “Due to a school or childcare closure because of COVID-19” [School/Childcare Closures or Educational Disruption LOA (EDLOA)]
- “To self-isolate due to COVID-19” [Self-Isolation or Voluntary Quarantine LOA (VQLOA)]
- “Voluntary leave of absence in response to a reduction in staffing related to COVID-19” [COVID-19 Capacity Reduction LOA]
- “Due to a reduction in staffing related to COVID-19, the employer has reduced hours for this employee” [Reduced Credit Option]
Written verification of your leave status
If you did not receive a written verification of your leave status or your reduced schedule when approved for the leave or reduced schedule, you may request such verification through Rachelle Jolley. Simply email her, requesting the letter at email@example.com.
Weekly UI payments
The weekly UI payments that eligible workers can receive was increased by $600 through July 31, 2020. The $600 UI payment from the federal government is over and above the UI payment from the state. Combining the federal and state UI payment, it is possible to receive nearly the same income or maybe even more than if you are working depending on your state (Washington is very favorable) and your income during the qualifying period. As stated earlier, you are probably ineligible for the COVID-19 UI benefits if you are receiving paid sick leave or other forms of paid leave (such as when coordinating sick leave or vacation). UI benefit payments are taxable income. Taxes are usually withheld from UI benefit payments at 10% by default unless the employee opts out of withholding.
- Alaska UI benefit estimator >
- Washington UI benefit estimator >
- Oregon UI benefit estimator >
- California UI benefit estimator >
- Idaho UI benefit estimator
Which option is best?
Every situation is unique, so the answer will be different for everyone. [Visit the Company’s Horizon AFA COVID-19 Leaves page to learn more information about your leave options, including a side-by-side comparison document.]
School/Childcare Closure or Educational Disruption LOA (EDLOA)
- Duration: Length of the school/childcare closure
- Documentation: Leave application, proof of closure may be requested
- Health insurance coverage: Flight Attendant on EDLOA shall continue to be covered by the Horizon Air group insurance plan and may continue dependent coverage by paying the employee portion of the coverage cost, so long as timely payment is made.
- UI benefits: Almost definite yes if unpaid. Very likely ineligible if paid (i.e. coordinating sick leave or vacation)
- Travel privileges: Suspended for FA but remains in effect for dependents
Self-Isolation or Voluntary Quarantine LOA (VQLOA)
- Duration: Self-selected for up to 30 days but leaves are being extended upon request. (If you desire a longer leave, indicate “30 days but requesting to extend to xx days”)
- Documentation: Leave application. No additional documentation required if selecting “I wish to remove myself from the workplace due to exposure to COVID-19 but I have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 or am symptomatic.”
- Health insurance coverage: A Flight Attendant on VQLOA shall continue to be covered by the Horizon Air group insurance plan and may continue dependent coverage by paying the employee portion of the coverage cost, so long as timely payment is made.
- UI benefits: Almost definite yes if unpaid. Very likely no if paid (i.e. coordinating sick leave or vacation)
- Travel privileges: Suspended for FA but remains in effect for dependents
COVID-19 Staffing Reduction Voluntary Leave CLOA
- Duration: Bid month
- Documentation: Email to DeeDee including your name, base, inflight date of hire, and your choice of month(s)
- Health insurance coverage: Continued and maintained (i.e. paid) by the Company
- UI benefits: Confidence is high but still untested
- Travel privileges: Remain in effect both online and offline
Unpaid VQLOA vs. Capacity Reduction LOA
An unpaid VQLOA is the most flexible leave option and the most likely to be eligible for a UI benefit payment. Flight Attendants may also apply for the VQLOA now—no need to wait until May. However, her/his pass privileges are suspended while on the leave.
If a Flight Attendant is willing to accept a little risk by potentially going without an income (no UI benefit), then s/he can apply for a Staffing Reduction LOA. The FA will have Company-paid health insurance coverage and retain her/his travel privileges in addition to having possible supplemental income from the UI benefit payment.
These are very difficult and stressful times for all of us. This has been a fluid situation, but please know that we are committed to achieving the best solutions possible for our Flight Attendants. We’ve tried to give you as much current and factual information as possible but there is no ‘right answer’ for everyone. Each decision must be based on your best assessment of the available options.
If you are confused by the many opinions and inaccurate information being offered, you are not alone. Your AFA representatives are committed to ensuring that you have the information you need and will be happy to answer questions. If you have a question, please reach out to your LEC Officers, either by phone or email.
Your LEC Leaves and Benefits Reps
mobile 541.954.7622 / email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile 253.332.8754 / email@example.com