The Claremont McKenna College Employee Relief Fund
As we all know, back in March, the College was abruptly forced to shift to remote living and learning. Recognizing the uncertainty of the situation, the College assured all employees their employment would continue, regardless of current responsibilities. Similarly, when State and County officials did not allow CMC to resume an on-campus program in the fall, the College continued to pay all employees, and promised to do so through at least the end of November, in the hope of a spring return. However, despite our robust preparation and comprehensive return plan, we still do not have County and State authorization. Recently, after eight months of providing full support, the College notified approximately 130 employees that if we are not able to reopen our residential campus in the spring, the College would be forced to effectuate temporarily furloughs.
The affected employees work in Athletics, Center for Global Education, Collins Dining Hall, Facilities and Campus Services, International Place, Kravis Leadership Institute, Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, and Office of College Events. The majority make less than $60,000 per year, and most of these staff will be fully furloughed. Although the College will continue to provide healthcare benefits, furloughed staff will suffer a financial loss. The College will assist these employees in applying for unemployment benefits. However, especially without the availability of any additional federal, COVID-19 support, the vast majority of furloughed staff will not have the ability to meet their basic economic needs. The average expenses for a family of four in Los Angeles County either surpasses or are equal to their monthly take-home pay. 40% of American families cannot pay an unexpected expense of $400. Based on our national and local economic data, we know that the vast majority of these employees will not be able to afford their basic needs during their temporary furlough.
To support these valued members of our community to cover their structural financial needs and obligations, the College is creating the Claremont Mckenna College Employee Relief Fund (the “Fund”). The Fund will have two access points.
First, to ensure immediate assistance, furloughed employees who attest that their non-discretionary monthly expenses exceed their monthly income, will receive two payments, the first in January and the second in the mid-spring. Second, in parallel to that first level of support, all employees, including those furloughed, who are able to document additional financial hardship due to COVID-19, or who are affected by a sudden death, fire, or other significant loss, will be able to apply for support for specific expenses. This fund is designed to be durable, in full effect within and outside the challenges of COVID-19. (We are working to finalize the precise financial details and policies of the Fund by the end of Novemeber.) If the College is not able to resume our on-campus program by December 9, we will notify affected employees that their temporary furlough will begin on December 20 and advise them on how to apply for Furlough Relief funding under both of these two options.
To support this plan, our current priority is to identify at least $1,000,000 in preliminary commitments by mid-November. Given the ambitious timeline, we seek donors interested in committing to gifts in increments of $100,000. Currently, we have raised over $600,000 in pledges from fellow trustees, loyal alumni, and committed parents. Some donors may choose to make provisional commitments in anticipation of a determination in early December on whether the furloughs will take effect. Others have already made commitments that we can use for employee relief on a long-term basis even if we do not have to furlough staff.
We are incredibly proud of the support the College has already provided to our valued employees. We are eager to extend this support, to take care of our community, recognize the valuable contributions of our staff, help ensure their return, and help them meet their minimal financial obligations through the CMC Employee Relief Fund.