By Jean Bednar, Brethren Benefit Trust
It’s difficult to gauge whether the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a threat in the US for 18 months now, is soon to be behind us, or taking a second run with vaccination challenges and variants that are harder for our systems to fight off. At Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT), when the pandemic began in March 2020, staff immediately kick started discussions on how to address the inevitable financial woes that would hit some of our members and clients hard–such as pastors and other employees of churches, districts, and camps.
Lynnae Rodeffer, director of Employee Benefits, says, “We were in a unique position to be able to very quickly create a grant program for those who might suffer financial problems caused by the pandemic. We already had the Church Workers’ Assistance Plan in place. Adding an emergency relief grant to the infrastructure of that program was a quick solution.”
The Church Workers’ Assistance Plan was created as an Annual Conference directive, which in 1998 asked BBT to serve as administrator of this benevolence program. Funds contributed by churches, districts, and camps provide financial support grants to church workers in dire financial need. The application process and distribution of funds are overseen by BBT staff.
In 2020, this program provided $290,000 in grants to 45 people.
When the COVID Emergency Grant program was set up last year, it was linked to the Church Workers’ Assistance Plan program but with a separate application and less stringent rules to make it easier to qualify, thereby making the process faster.
Extending the grant program now through the end of the year 2021 has been an easy decision for BBT staff, but they also had the backing of the Council of District Executives, who voiced their support of the idea earlier in 2021. The district executives report that they have seen the need within their districts, and the grants awarded thus far have helped carry folks through. They are also helping BBT spread the news of the grant program by passing the information along when they hear of someone who is suffering financial hardship.
Please visit www.cobbt.org/Church-Workers-Assistance-Plan for more information and an application.
— Jean Bednar is director of communications for Brethren Benefit Trust.
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