Aug. 13, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff:
As we enter our sixth month of changed lives and routines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that the stresses, complications, and anxieties of coping with our new reality are compounding. The work you have done since this spring to allow Johns Hopkins to maintain its mission of education, research, and service—and to play such a vital role in the world’s response to COVID-19—is awe-inspiring. And you have done so in the face of tremendous challenges in balancing your work and personal lives, at a time when the resources and routines you rely on have been utterly upended.
During listening sessions President Daniels and Provost Kumar held this summer with junior faculty and in numerous discussions with staff, we have heard significant concerns about work-life balance. Caregiving—whether of children or others—emerged as a consistent source of personal and professional stress. The decision by many school systems to start the year in a virtual mode exacerbates the challenges for parents, and the heightened risk of COVID-19 for older adults presents new dilemmas for those who are responsible for elder care.
We have heard great ideas from faculty and staff for addressing these difficulties, and we are actively exploring many of them. Some will take time to implement because of their complexity or the scale of investments required, and we will keep the community updated as that work continues. However, we have been able to make several immediate enhancements to our caregiving benefits in response to your feedback, and we want to offer more ways to access and learn about all the caregiving resources and benefits that have been expanded over the past year as well. We are here to help you in the following areas.
Finding care. Finding appropriate caregiving is difficult under normal circumstances, but employees say they now face additional challenges in finding care that meets their needs and their COVID safety comfort level. Johns Hopkins has several new and existing resources that can help.
- We have enhanced our existing paid premium membership to the Care@Work by Care.com app and platform. In addition to allowing employees to post jobs and perform detailed searches for providers, the service now includes expert assistance by Care@Work, which provides one-on-one support for a care search. Care specialists will conduct an assessment based on the kind of care you need, help find caregivers that match your requirements, and discuss options with you.
- Maryland Family Network offers personalized child care resources and referrals for families seeking center-based child care in Maryland through their LOCATE service.
Locating Hopkins-focused resource networks. Many faculty and staff suggested ideas to connect Hopkins affiliates seeking caregiving services with each other. In response, we have provided affiliates with access to Komae, an innovative co-op-style parent network platform on which Hopkins families can find each other to pool resources for caregiving. In Greek, komae means village. The platform allows you to join with trusted friends and family in a “Sitter Village” and schedule care. Rather than texting around or feeling guilty about asking for a favor, you can ask your entire village at once through Komae.
In addition, employees can use a keyword search for “Hopkins” on the Care@Work platform to narrow their search to caregivers specifically interested in working with the university community.
Affordability. Employees whose ordinary care arrangements have been altered by school closures and other events have told us they now often find themselves paying for caregiving services they hadn’t anticipated. We are exploring options for providing more financial support this fall, and we have existing programs to help many families. Employees may qualify for Johns Hopkins–sponsored child care vouchers of up to $5,000 per year, with eligibility and maximum benefits determined by the family’s adjusted gross income. The vouchers can be used for any legal child care, either in a home or child care center. In addition, employees earning less than $50,000 per year are eligible for a benefit of up to $1,000 to cover needs resulting from COVID-19, including caregiving. Funds in this program are limited but still available.
Backup care. Many faculty and staff have voiced stress about meeting their work schedules given the possibility that schools or care facilities could shut down and reopen unpredictably. Johns Hopkins provides subsidized backup care through Care@Work, up to 20 days per year to support child care or elder care when regular arrangements are unavailable. These services can come through care centers or individuals, and we are working to provide more flexibility in the network of providers.
Next steps. Faculty and staff have expressed a strong interest in Johns Hopkins developing additional types of caregiving support such as tutoring and other assistance for children engaged in distance learning. We are currently exploring options to provide those services and increased financial aid for those struggling to afford unexpected care costs. We are intensively focused on this effort and will keep you updated on our progress.
To help you take advantage of these resources, we will be conducting Family and Caregiving Programs information sessions starting this month. We will cover how to use Komae Cooperative Care as well as Care@Work’s offerings to have a successful school year. The first two sessions will take place on Friday, Aug. 21, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., and on Wednesday, Aug. 26, from 2 to 3 p.m. To register, go to the Child Care HR page.
We realize that caregiving is just one of the many difficulties posed by the altered circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic brings, and Johns Hopkins is committed to supporting its faculty and staff as much as possible during these challenging times. We urge you to take advantage of the services offered through the Johns Hopkins mySupport program, which offers resources for emotional support and daily life assistance. You can reach mySupport directly by calling 443-997-7000.
You can learn more about everything mentioned above by visiting the Benefits & Worklife pages of the JHU HR website or by contacting the JHU Benefits Service Center at 410-516-2000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We cannot thank you enough for your dedication and commitment.
Vice President for Human Resources