TERRE HAUTE —
Now that a major deadline has been pushed back for the Affordable Care Act, Vigo School Corp. Superintendent Dan Tanoos hopes to restore support staff work hours that otherwise would have been cut for the upcoming school year.
“It’s fantastic news for our employees,” Tanoos said Wednesday.
He was reacting to news that the Obama administration has announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in a central requirement of the new health care law that many companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines.
Under the health law, companies with 50 or more workers would have had to provide affordable coverage to their full-time employees or risk a series of escalating tax penalties if just one worker ended up getting government-subsidized insurance. Originally, that requirement was supposed to take effect Jan. 1. It will now be delayed to 2015.
Also, the law created a new definition of full-time workers as those putting in 30 hours or more. It also included two separate requirements, one to provide coverage and another that coverage be deemed “affordable” under the law. Violations of either one would have exposed employers to fines.
The school district had planned to cut work hours of support staff (bus drivers, instructional aides and cafeteria workers) to 30 or fewer hours per week; otherwise, the district would have had to provide those employees with health insurance under ACA.
That would have cost the district about $6 million to $8 million, money the district doesn’t have, Tanoos said. Also, if the district paid the penalty for not providing insurance, it would have cost $3 million to $4 million more per year.
With the one-year reprieve in the mandate, Tanoos hopes to provide relief to those workers who would have had their work hours and pay reduced — primarily those who had two jobs. He described one employee who worked as a health aide and as a cheer sponsor. That person would have had to give up one of those jobs.
He will recommend those employees whose work hours were cut because they held two positions “should be able to go back to having the previous position,” he said.
He also hopes to restore bus driver hours, such as for those who had a regular route, about 25 hours per week, and also transported students to athletic events — which would have put them over the 30-hour per week limit.
“Taking care of employee salaries is our number one focus,” he said. “The biggest concern is employees whose hours were cut because they worked more than 30 hours in two positions.”
Likewise, many employees would have had work hours reduced — yet their overall pay would have remained the same by increasing their hourly pay. Tanoos didn’t believe it was fair to cut their overall pay.
Because of the one-year delay, Tanoos said those employees will have their regular hours restored at the former rate of pay (overall pay would remain the same).
In addition, Tanoos plans to meet with his central office team next week “to see how we will proceed next year.”
The cuts in support staff work hours affected many other aspects of the school district, including field trips and middle school athletic transportation.
Tanoos doesn’t believe all the changes announced in recent weeks will be undone; otherwise, they might have to “go back and re-do it all” in time for 2015 implementation of ACA.
Overall, the decision by the Obama administration means that at least for next year, the district can restore hours and wages for workers who can least afford to have them cut, Tanoos said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.