Coronavirus and Your Financial Health

Are you concerned about the effect of the Coronavirus on your personal finances, career, and/or education?

Please bear in mind, due to the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic, details about the illness, public response, policy, and more, are subject to change. Please consult your state and local offices for the most accurate and up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic in your area; and for global updates, consult the World Health Organization .

Create a Payment Triage Strategy:

Most experts recommend that you prioritize your bill payments according to what you need the most and what you have to lose if you don’t pay.

This means you should first consider paying for the assets and services you cannot do without. This often includes your home mortgage, heat, water, etc. because they can materially affect your health and well-being if they get cut off. For example, if you stop paying your mortgage, you might lose your home, which is definitely a risk to your health and safety.

Next, experts recommend that you pay any debts that are backed by assets1. You may want to consider these debts as your second priority because you can lose assets if you don’t pay the monthly bills. For example, if you don’t pay your car loan, you will eventually lose your car, which can then cause significant trouble in your life.

Lastly, you may consider your final priority of payments to be non-collateralized/unsecured debts. These are debts which are not connected to essential services or backed by any assets, so failing to make these payments does not put you in immediate hardship. Such debts can include credit cards, personal loans, and student loans. While such debts can definitely cause problems if not paid over the long run, they are the least likely to cause significant issues if not paid during a short-term crisis period.

Which Bills to Pay

If possible, experts strongly recommend that you pay all your minimum payments first before paying anything above your minimum payments. This allows you to avoid having missed payments on your record and is hugely helpful in maintaining good credit.

However, if you cannot pay all your minimum payments, you may then decide to mentally prioritize your debts—either using the prioritization efforts described above or using your own prioritization method. This can help you decide which payments to make and which ones you might have to delay.

It is important to keep in mind that if you cannot pay a minimum payment in full, a partial payment will still have a negative effect on your credit. Given that, you may want to prioritize making a lower number of full minimum payments over making a higher number of payments that are only partial.

Negotiate with Lenders

If you are encountering financial hardships due to a crisis, one option you may want to consider is negotiating with your lenders. While minimum payments can seem like hard rules, there are many instances where lenders will be flexible in consideration of a crisis—especially if that crisis is widespread. For example, many financial institutions have provided financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic by waiving fees and allowing customers to defer payments on debts. So, it can be of significant financial benefit for you to at least ask your lenders if other options are available.

When negotiating with your lenders, there are several compromises that may be available to help protect your credit. Like in the example above, you may be able to defer payments to avoid having a missed/late payment on your record. You may also ask about lowering your monthly payments in exchange for paying for a longer period of time. This means you are more easily able to make your payments, and the lender also doesn’t lose money on the arrangement. Other options may include lowering your APR so that future payments on any remaining debt will be lower.

For bills that are run by the government, such as utilities, you may be able to take advantage of hardship benefits. For example, Arlington, Virginia offers financial assistance for heating and cooling bills2. Such programs already exist for many local governments, and a major crisis can lead to even more programs being available to you.

Stay Calm and Protect Your Financial Future

By its very nature, a crisis is scary. It can be very easy to not think about your financial situation, and instead focus on just getting by or staying healthy in the case of a pandemic. But staying calm and developing a financial strategy is very important for you and your family. It can help you get through any crisis you may be going through in the short term, and protect your financial future in the long term.

Source: iGrad

Overcoming Generational Barriers in Workplace Communication

Having shared goals but different expectations about how to achieve them is a common theme of workplace disagreements. How does an employer bridge the gap and keep the focus on quality outcomes and high productivity while simultaneously ensuring all employees feel represented within the workplace? It is critical to identify differences between alternative perceptions.

It is important to keep these differences in mind, to promote peace and productivity. Employers should focus on commonalities with these cohorts. Although the order of priorities may change between the generations, most employees value work-life balance, want to be included in decisions and leadership, expect training and development opportunities, strive for work that is challenging and rewarding, are financially motivated.

Work Values

  • Boomer: Stick to the agenda, enjoy and value teamwork and individual accountability.
  • Generation X: Strive for balance, freedom, and flexibility and value process over product.
  • Millennial: Value continuing education, respond well to mentoring, and prefer flattened hierarchy and social opportunities.
  • Generation Z: Expect work to be a central part of their lives, value guidance and reassurance, income-driven, risk-adverse and emphasize safety.

Some effective strategies for managing diverse workplace populations include:

  • interdisciplinary teams that include cross-generational mentoring and allow for all to be represented in decision making
  • individual recognition and promotion based on performance rather than longevity and past experience with incentives that are meaningful to the employees current life stage
  • multi-level feedback and supervision
  • multimodal communication
  • avoid generational biases and ageism
  • present changes in a way that does not seem to favor one group or displace another

Consider the following workplace decision-making process, finalizing project:

  • Boomer: We need to finalize the details of the project. I will schedule a meeting in the conference room sometime this week. Please let me know open times on your schedule.
  • Generation X: What a waste of time! We are just wrapping up the details – can we have a quick conference call instead and can’t we use a Doodle Poll to figure out when we can all meet?
  • Millennial: Why don’t we use Zoom or FaceTime?
  • Generation Z: Can’t this be solved asynchronously, I have a family obligation today. Could we respond in the next 24 hours with a cloud-based survey??

In this conversation, the employees share the same goal. Their communication preferences and the way they manage their time varies. As the conversation evolves, each individual contributes a set of ideas unique to their cohort. Personality conflicts may arise; some may get frustrated, thinking their way is the better method and not understanding why the other do not agree and some way may feel they are not heard and valued when their preferences are unmet. Over time, these disagreements can overcome exaggerated and could be source of further disagreement, contributing to the mood of the overall work environment.

Source: Rebecca Merlenbach, graduate student at Lindenwood University and Dr. Sarah Patterson-Mills, LPC, Program Chair for School Counseling at Lindenwood University.

COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief Program

The COVID-19 Emergency Financial Relief Program was created to provide financial assistance to all Veterans, Active Duty, Reserves and National Guard who are experiencing a financial setback due to the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant amount will support 1 month of payment up to $1500 in the following areas:

  • Rent
  • Mortgage
  • Auto Loan/Lease
  • Utilities (Electric, Water, Heat)

All checks will be sent directly to the creditor or landlord after the grant is approved. The Foundation can only support one emergency financial request per household.

To apply for emergency assistance go to theirwebsite.

Grants for Texas Teachers

Texas Education Agency (TEA) publishes grant applications electronically through the eGrants system and on paper. The process an applicant must follow to apply for funds is different for eGrants and paper applications.

  • eGrant Applications: An eGrant is an online grant application that is published through eGrants, TEA’s electronic grants system. The eGrants system stores and makes available all grant-related documents, such as the grant application, general and fiscal guidelines, program guidelines, and any errata notices issued for the grant. eGrant applications must be completed electronically and submitted online.
  • Paper Applications: Applicants must download paper grant applications in Adobe PDF form format from the TEA Grant Opportunities page, then complete the forms on the applicant’s desktop. After the application is complete, the applicant must print, sign, and mail the forms to the TEA Document Control Center.  All grant-related documents, such as the grant application, general and fiscal guidelines, program guidelines, and any errata notices issued for the grant, are listed on the TEA Grants Opportunities page.

Request for Application

The request for application (RFA) describes the grant program as well as the associated guidelines, requirements, and provisions and assurances. The RFA consists of the following parts:

  • General and Fiscal Guidelines: Describes requirements, processes, and guidelines applicable to all TEA-administered grants.
  • Program guidelines: Describes the individual grant program’s goals and requirements.
  • Grant application and instructions: Includes the forms, or schedules, that the applicant must complete and submit to become eligible for grant funding, along with any applicable instructions.
  • Provisions and assurances: Lists the legal obligations the applicant agrees to comply with in accepting grant funds.

The RFA for any grant is available on the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page. If the grant is available through eGrants and you are an eligible recipient for the grant, the RFA is also linked to the eGrants homepage.

Formula Grants

The legislation authorizing a formula grant includes a mathematical formula for calculating the amount of grant funds, or the entitlement, that each applicant may receive. TEA uses eGrants to electronically publish the applications for most formula grants. The formula grant applications for a given school year normally open in eGrants during the preceding spring semester.

The three major formula grant programs that TEA administers are authorized by the following pieces of federal legislation:

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as reauthorized in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA).
  • Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 2006.

Before an eligible applicant can complete an eGrants application, each staff member responsible for completing, submitting, and certifying the application must have a TEA Login (TEAL) account and access to the eGrants system. To request a new TEAL account, go to the TEA Login page and “Request a New User Account.” From the TEAL Accounts menu, request access to the eGrants application. The TEA Login page provides links to the online TEASE account and eGrants request forms.

The application for each eligible applicant includes an estimate of the funding amount (the “planning amount”) that will be available to the applicant. As the school year progresses and the data TEA uses to calculate entitlements becomes available, the planning amount is revised and the “maximum entitlement” is issued.

In addition to the grant application, eGrants includes links to all grant-related documents, including the program guidelines. Those documents are also available on the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page.

Discretionary Grants

The legislation authorizing a discretionary grant gives some freedom, or discretion, to the agency administering the grant. The legislation may define certain elements of the grant program, such as population to be served or services to be provided, while leaving the administering agency free to determine other elements, such as eligibility criteria or the amount to be awarded to various grantees.

TEA may award discretionary grants on a competitive or noncompetitive basis.

Competitive Discretionary Grants

TEA awards competitive grant funds to eligible applicants whose applications meet submission requirements and receive the highest scores in the peer review process. The amount of competitive funds awarded to each grantee depends on the number of applicants that are eligible for funding and on the total amount of grant funds available.

The competitive process is strictly defined and monitored to ensure fairness and consistency. For complete information on competitive grants, refer to the General and Fiscal Guidelines, linked to the Guidelines, Provisions and Assurances page of the TEA website.

Noncompetitive Discretionary Grants

Noncompetitive discretionary grants are awarded to a predetermined list of eligible applicants, each of which is allotted a certain amount of grant funding. Applicants may access the grant application through eGrants, as with formula grants, or through the paper application (Microsoft Word files that are linked to the grant’s TEA Grant Opportunities page and that the grantee downloads, completes, prints, then submits on paper). TEA contacts eligible applicants directly to alert them to the availability and amount of noncompetitive grant funding.

Eligible Applicants

The following entities are eligible to apply for formula and discretionary funds:

  • Formula grants are available to independent school districts (ISDs) and open-enrollment charter schools.
  • Discretionary grants may be available to ISDs, open-enrollment charter schools, education service centers, institutions of higher education, and public and private nonprofit organizations, depending on the eligibility criteria defined in the legislation authorizing the grant program or by TEA.

Grant Negotiation

Before TEA awards funding of any type, the agency reviews the grant application for compliance with all grant requirements. It may be necessary for the applicant to update elements of the application to meet requirements. In those cases, TEA provides guidance to the applicant through the process known as grant negotiation.

TEA cannot award funds to an applicant until the grant application is negotiated to approval. If TEA determines during the negotiation process that the application is not eligible to be funded, the agency notifies the applicant of its ineligibility for funding. TEA is not responsible for paying for any expenditure incurred by the applicant.

Grant Award

When TEA and the applicant have negotiated the grant application to approval, TEA awards grant funds by issuing the Notice of Grant Award (NOGA). The NOGA incorporates all parts of the RFA, including the negotiated application, and constitutes the binding agreement between TEA and the applicant.

Allocation Amounts (State and Federal)

TEA administers grants funded by state and federal sources. The Texas Legislature passes legislation to authorize state-funded grants. The US Congress passes legislation to authorize federally funded grants.

Depending on the authorizing legislation, TEA either awards grants on a discretionary basis (discretionary grants) or bases the award on a mathematical formula described in the authorizing statute (formula or entitlement grants).

For discretionary grants, the commissioner of education has the discretion to determine the allocation. The commissioner may also have discretion about who is eligible and how the funds will be awarded.

For formula grants, authorizing statute determines eligibility and the statutory formula determines allocation amounts. Only local educational agencies (LEAs) are eligible to apply for entitlement grants.

Current- and prior-year allocation amounts for each LEA eligible for a state or federal entitlement grant are listed on the Entitlements page of the TEA website.

Amending the Application

The grantee may need to make changes to the grant program described and budgeted in the approved application. Some changes are within the grantee’s power to make without seeking TEA approval. Most changes, however, require the grantee to update, or amend, the approved grant application. All changes that are subject to the amendment process require TEA approval and may require negotiation.

To determine whether a planned change to the grant program requires an amendment to the application, grantees should consult the document When to Amend the Application.

The amendment process is fully described in the Amending the Application section of the General and Fiscal Guidelines.

Source: Texas Education Agency

3 Ways to Connect the Generations in the Workplace

When developing intergenerational connectivity, it is essential to focus on the connecting points that unite generations, rather than dissimilarities.

  1. Mentoring: Mentoring is the collective “how” in work. Organizations strive for mutual support and tolerance with a strong commitment to inclusiveness. In order to accomplish this, companies must train leaders to be better equipped to communicate, mentor, inspire, and authentically care about their employees. Developing a mentoring structure that identifies employee goals, needs, and then setting up support models, such as one-on-one sessions, intergenerational group sessions, and even “speed mentoring” where employees ask questions of the organization’s leaders, will encourage knowledge-sharing relationships. Baby Boomers can pass on the institutional knowledge, Generation X can bring structure and focus, Generation Y provides unique connections and Generation Z support innovation. “Reverse mentoring” can also be very effective, using technology to give younger team members the opportunity to share their skills with more senior colleagues.
  2. Mastering: Mastering is a creative “why” in work. Open communication with customized messaging tailored to individual need provides Generation Y and Generation Z with continuous feedback loops, while annual performance reviews continue for Baby Boomers and Builders. Training managers to develop strong interpersonal and communication skills will ensure an open and inclusive workspace where employees can share. Bringing generations togethers together by conducting awareness sessions provides an opportunity to educate one another about each generation’s history, values, culture, and norms. Developing a sense of purpose beyond profit by putting more emphasis on opportunities for growth, promotions based on competence and honoring social responsibility, creates an environment of ambition, connection and loyalty. Embedding the mission/vision of the organization into each employee’s ambitions provides a connective purpose between generations.
  3. Motivating: Motivating is the connective “what” in work. Each generation has wants and needs based on different ways they value work. Baby Boomers and Builders have less family obligations and may wish to work part-time but still want to be involved in decisions. Individuals from Generation X are the “sandwich generation”, caring both elders and children while paying mortgages and saving for their children’s college and retirement. Generation Y look for the “work to live” balance in their lives. Professional development, however, is a constant request of each generation. The best solution in providing training to a multi-generational workforce isn’t prioritizing but by personalizing the learning. This requires customizing development for each employee to engage them in the material and their growth. Learning tools can be a platform that provides customized pathways to achieve individuals goals or provide necessary training. Technology, in-person training, and experiential opportunities that fit the learning styles of individual employees provide awareness-building a Millennials move into management.

Summary: Organizations thrive leaders focus custom approaches based on how each generation sees the world and how values are shaped by their experience. Those values, in turn, shape their place in the workplace. They key to respect between generations is the recognition of uniqueness in each generations’ talent, potential, expertise and motivation in the multi-generational workplace by creating customized opportunities to collaborate, connect and foster successful relationships.

Source: Linda Sollars, MA, GCDFi, CMCS, President of Creating Purpose, LLC.