March 27, 2009

Hardship Fund is getting applications -- from Cornellians wanting to give

Even before the proverbial ink was dry on the guidelines to the recently announced Hardship Fund, the university was receiving inquiries not from those wanting to apply to the fund, but from those who want to give to it.

"After the difficult decision was made not to have a full salary increase program in FY10, we decided to provide some financial support for those faculty and staff who will have particular difficulty meeting increased financial obligations in the coming year," said Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources. "What we did not count on were the staff and faculty members who have come forward asking how they can donate to the fund. We shouldn't have been surprised -- this kind of generosity is typical of the Cornell community."

Open to all current benefits-eligible nonacademic and academic employees, bargaining unit employees, faculty and benefits-eligible postdoc associates, the Hardship Fund is designed to provide one-time funds to address the rise in living expenses that could become burdensome following the university's decision not to award salary increases for most employees in July 2009. These expenses include increases of at least 5 percent in one or more areas, such as:

The fund also covers financial challenges, incurred since July 1, 2008, caused by the job loss of a member in the household; non-catastrophic ongoing medical expenses; and expenses related to the deployment of military personnel in the household.

Noting that the Hardship Fund is one of a number of programs the university is developing to help employees in the current economic downturn, Lynette Chappell-Williams, director of the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality, said, "Cornell cares about the members of its community who are experiencing difficulties, and we are trying to assist where the need is greatest."

The university has set aside a total of $750,000 for those who apply for and are granted Hardship Fund monies. To assist as many employees as possible, the university is also accepting gifts from members of the Cornell community who feel that they are in a position to help. "This allows Cornell employees to help each other directly and anonymously," said Joanne DeStefano, vice president for financial affairs and chief financial officer. "Money that is given to the Hardship Fund will be channeled directly to a staff or faculty member in need. I am pleased to see such positive support for this program, which demonstrates the generosity and goodwill of our caring community."

Contributions to the Hardship Fund are considered tax-deductible charitable contributions, and are being accepted through June 30. Those who are interested in giving to the Hardship Fund can do so either automatically through payroll deduction (up through June 30), or by credit or debit card by going to the Web site below. Gifts by check can be sent to The Hardship Fund, 130 Day Hall, Cornell University (please indicate that these gifts are for the Hardship Fund). The university is also accepting gifts from non-Cornell agencies, organizations and individuals.

"Cornell's senior administration has committed to funding the Hardship Fund through university sources, and members of the senior staff are donating to the fund as well," said Opperman. "But the caring that is shown through gifts from faculty, staff and others will extend the reach of the fund to an even greater number of employees."

Questions about the fund can be addressed to the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality, 255-3976, FAX: 255-7481, TDD: 255-7066, and e-mail: owdelq@cornell.edu. More information about the Hardship Fund is available at http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/caringCommunity/hardshipFund/.

The Hardship Fund is designed to provide one-time funds to bridge the gap for employees disproportionately impacted by the university's need to suspend salary increases for the 2009-10 fiscal year and those who have been notified of job loss due to budgetary reasons.