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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cigna partnered with our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to leverage their concierge model to help connect employees to the right resources at the right time. These resources included a $250 Cigna Care Card for eligible employees.1 The Care Card program was designed to qualify as a disaster relief program under section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code. Under that Code section, employers may provide tax-free benefits in the form of cash to assist employees with certain reasonable and necessary eligible expenses incurred as a result of a “qualified disaster”.2 During the COVID-19 pandemic, the president made such a disaster determination for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories. As a result, Cigna was able to issue a Cigna Care Card as a means of assisting eligible employees who incurred additional expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In partnership with our Cigna Behavioral Health EAP, we issued over 8,000 Cigna Care Cards to employees in 2020 to provide financial support with dependents under age 18. Because COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted caregivers3, caregivers are primarily female4, and our workforce is 73 percent female, we worked to come up with a holistic approach to support our employees. The Care Card could be used for eligible expenses including costs associated with education and childcare, as well as other costs associated with home schooling related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the initial launch of our expanded EAP and Care Card program, our EAP partners took more calls in one week than they typically take in a whole month. They were able to connect our employees with community resources and childcare. Through these calls, EAP team members learned the Care Cards were being used for a variety of purposes, as detailed in the following table:
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1Employees classified as eligible for health and wellness benefits are generally a regular full-time employees of a participating company or regular part-time employees of a participating company scheduled to work at least 30 hours each week;
- In Career Band 1, 2, or 3;
- Work in United States, Puerto Rico, and/or associated U.S. Territories; and
- Adhere to a one card per company couple limit (i.e., if both you and your spouse/partner work at Cigna, only one of you may apply for the Cigna Care Card).
2Under section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code, employers may provide tax-free benefits in the form of cash to assist employees with certain reasonable and necessary eligible expenses incurred as a result of a “qualified disaster”. The term “qualified disaster” includes a federally declared disaster, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, determined by the president of the United States to warrant federal assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
3Kilaberia, T., Bell, J., Bettega, K., Mongoven, J., Kelly, K., & Young, H. (2020, December 6). Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Caregivers. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7741794/.
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.-b). Women, Caregiving, and COVID-19. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Living. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/women/caregivers-covid-19/index.html.