Plan Breakdown: Qualified VS Non-Qualified, and Why it Matters

Even in a pre-pandemic economy, attracting and retaining top talent was a challenge across industry lines.

A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that four in five employees would prefer new or additional benefits over a pay raise. More specifically, 89 percent of younger employees, those between 18 and 34, would prefer benefits to more money in their paycheck.

While increased health-care insurance was the most valued benefit (40 percent), retirement plan and/or pension ranked fifth, at 31 percent. Flexible scheduling — which has become the norm for many in the current work from home environment — followed retirement savings, at 30 percent. So let’s brush up on The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and have a brief refresher on the differences between qualified verses non-qualified plans, to make sure you are offering your employees competitive retirement and benefit plans to keep them satisfied.

What is ERISA?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1974 to set minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans. It was established because at the time, state and federal laws didn’t adequately protect employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries. It requires plan sponsors to provide plan information to participants. It establishes conduct standards for plan managers and other fiduciaries as well as enforcement provisions to ensure that plan funds are protected and that qualifying participants receive their benefits, even if a company goes bankrupt.

Who does ERISA protect?

ERISA covers retirement plans and welfare benefit plans. In FY 2013, ERISA encompassed roughly 684,000 retirement plans, 2.4 million health plans, and 2.4 million additional welfare benefit plans. These plans cover about 141 million workers and beneficiaries and include more than $7.6 trillion in assets. About 54 percent of America’s workers earn retirement benefits on the job, and 59 percent earn health benefits.

Qualified vs Non-Qualified Plans

So, what’s the difference between qualified and non-qualified plans? Qualified plans qualify for certain tax benefits and government protection. Nonqualified plans do not meet all ERISA stipulations.

Qualified plans are the most rigid, as they require a number of guidelines to qualify — including vesting, benefit accrual, and funding restrictions. A few of the most well-known qualified retirement plans, include:

  • 401(k) profit-sharing plans: a retirement savings plan offered by many American employers that has tax advantages to the saver. It is named after a section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
  • 403(b) plans: a retirement account for certain employees of public schools and tax-exempt organizations. Participants include teachers, school administrators, professors, government employees, nurses, doctors, and librarians.
  • Keogh (HR-10) plans:  tax-deferred pension plans—either defined-benefit or defined-contribution—used for retirement purposes by either self-employed individuals or unincorporated businesses, while independent contractors cannot use a Keogh plan.

Non-qualified plans leave a more flexible variety of possibilities for employees and are generally used to provide high-paid executives with an additional retirement savings option. However, employees pay taxes on funds before contributing to the plan in non-qualified plans, and typically, an employer is unable to claim these contributions as a tax deduction. Additionally, according to Investopedia, a non-qualified employee benefit plan has no limit on contributions from the employer and requires minimal reporting and filing on the employer’s part, and are usually less money to create than qualified plans. There are four major types of nonqualified plans:

  • Deferred-compensation plans: a written agreement between an employer and an employee in which part of the employee’s compensation is withheld by the company, invested, and then given to the employee at some point in the future.
  • Executive bonus plans: provide supplemental benefits to select executives and employees. Most commonly, employees under such plans receive a life insurance policy with employer-paid premiums.
  • Split-dollar life insurance plans: utilized when the employer purchases a life insurance policy for the employee, and they split the ownership of the policy.
  • Group carve-out plans: utilized in order for the employer to carve out the group life insurance of a key executive and replaces it with an individual policy. It allows the employee to avoid excess costs associated with a group plan.

Whether you offer a diverse range of options for your team, or this refresher has given you some inspiration about changes your administration needs to make, it’s always a good idea to reevaluate what your company offers. Staying competitive as we approach 2022 means staying innovative, implementing improvements, and keeping your team motivated and happy to stay successful and reach new goals. If you have any questions about updating your policies, please reach out to our team of dedicated professionals.

Sources: DOL, Investopedia, CFI, Glassdoor

Must Share Info: Resuming Student Loans

January might feel far away, but it will be here before you know it (along with freezing temperatures and lots and lots of snow, sorry New Yorkers, you know the drill). Like winterizing your home or prepping for the change in seasons, millions of student loan borrowers have another addition to tack onto their winter to-do list before we hit the New Year. Overall, there are 2.7 million student loan borrowers in New York, with debt totaling $99.8 billion. New York borrowers carry an average balance of $35,638 each — though that’s 3% lower than the average borrower in the U.S. ($36,689). Below, you’ll find extremely important and time-sensitive student loan repayment reactivation information to pass along to student loan borrowers in your life before time runs out.

Student loan payments, interest accruals, and collections of defaulted federal student loans have all been on hold since the start of the pandemic — first thanks to the CARES Act, then due to extensions from former President Donald Trump, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and President Biden. This August, the U.S. Department of Education announced a final extension of the student loan payment pause until Jan. 31, 2022.

So, how can borrowers prepare for repayments to resume?

Below are three steps to pass along to borrowers, so they can ensure they’re prepared for payments to resume:

  1. Update your contact information in your profile on your loan servicer’s website and in your profile.
  2. Check out Loan Simulator to find a repayment plan that meets your needs and goals or to decide whether to consolidate.
  3. Consider applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. An IDR plan can make your payments more affordable, depending on your income and family size.

A further note on repayment strategy – now is a good time for borrowers to reassess their future plans. Encourage borrowers to make sure they can afford the payments when they resume, and if not, dedicate time now to determining what repayment options may be available instead of waiting until January. It’s best to have a list of financial advisers, or certified student loan experts readily available to offer borrowers resources to provide assistance and direction. Also, make sure they know that once the payment suspension ends, they will receive a billing statement or other notice at least 21 days before the payment is due. Encourage them to contact their loan servicer online or by phone to find out what the payment amount will be when payments restart. Loan servicers are the most reliable source for official, up-to-date information about loans. Another helpful tip? The U.S. Department of Education wants to help borrowers learn how to avoid scams. Student loan borrowers should never accept unexpected offers of financial aid or help (such as a “pandemic grant” or “Biden loan forgiveness”) without checking with their school to see if the offer is legit.

The pandemic caused economic shockwaves across the nation, regardless of economic status, everyone surely felt some level of impact.

From family members losing jobs to falling ill, many entered saving mode due to extreme stress and uncertain financial times. Be sure to pass along compassion to borrowers you connect with and direct them to resources. The Federal Student Aid site provides the latest updates about coronavirus student loan relief and its impact on students, borrowers, and parents. For more information on student loan forgiveness legislation, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Of course, our dedicated RBT professional team is also here to provide personalized guidance.

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Student Loan Hero

Understanding Facial Recognition in Your Own Backyard

Understanding Facial Recognition in Your Own Backyard

If you’re not familiar with facial recognition (FTR), it’s time to learn the basics.

The reality is, it’s already playing a part in your life whether you know it or not. FTR is a type of biometric technology that mimics how people identify or verify others by examining faces. Recent advancements have increased the accuracy of automated FRT. The result? More communities are adopting it than ever before across a range of applications, but the technology is still far from perfect.

Critics like civil liberties groups argue facial recognition contributes to privacy erosion and reinforces biases.

Despite concerns, the use of FRT continues to explode, so it’s increasingly important to understand its use in government. That’s why GAO recently conducted a survey to learn how federal governments are implementing this technology. Currently, most state legislatures – including New York – have rejected bans and severe restrictions on facial recognition. So what does this mean for the future of public safety in your community?

GAO’s report surveyed 24 federal agencies about their use of FTR:

  • 16 reported using it for digital access/cybersecurity, such as allowing employees to unlock agency smartphones with it
  • 6 reported using it to generate leads in criminal investigations
  • 5 reported using it for physical security, such as controlling access to a building/facility
  • 10 said they planned to expand its use through fiscal year 2023. For example, an agency plans to pilot the use of FRT to automate the identity verification process for airports travelers

At the municipal level, the number of localities considering broad bans on facial recognition has been limited in 2021 to just three.

Minneapolis and King County, Washington, passed bans on government use, while the Baltimore City Council recently approved the most expansive ban so far that also restricts personal and business use, joining Portland, Oregon, as one of the only two local jurisdictions out of 18 moving to restrict private-sector applications in addition to banning local government use.

So, how does the public feel about FTR?

Every community is different, so the residents in your community may be more supportive, or perhaps more skeptical than the survey results we’re about to share. Insight platform Piplsay polled 31,184 Americans this August to understand people’s views on the uses of facial recognition technology in public spaces. The poll respondents were told that some major U.S. retailers like Macy’s and Lowes have been using facial recognition to help to better detect organized retail theft. Forty percent of people surveyed were unaware of this fact and while 42 percent of people said they did not mind this, 38 percent did not support the use of the technology.

Many Americans surveyed on the subject agree that facial recognition is a helpful tool to crack down on fraud and crime, but the major concern seems to be a lack of transparency about the tech and the personal data being collected. The takeaway? If localities opt to simply disclose the use of the technology to the general public, it would likely garner more widespread support. The best gauge would of course be to start an open dialogue at your next in-person, or virtual community meeting.

What’s the latest here in New York?

New York City is the latest U.S. city to enact a biometric privacy law. Effective July 2021, the law puts new limits on what businesses can do with the biometric customer data, giving New Yorkers greater protections over how their data is collected and used. Businesses that collect biometric information — most commonly in the form of facial recognition and fingerprints — are required to post notices and signs at their doors explaining how customer data will be collected. The ordinance applies to a wide range of businesses — retailers, stores, restaurants, and theaters, to name a few — which are also barred from selling, sharing, or otherwise profiting from the biometric information that they collect. Businesses can face stiff penalties for violating the law but can escape fines if they fix the violation quickly. While your locality hasn’t yet adopted any specific biometrics or facial recognition laws, it’s bound to remain a hot button topic for years to come. It’s a good idea to keep this growing tech on your radar and check in with local leaders and constituents to gauge their perspectives. At RBT, we understand that governmental entities face enormous challenges every day and that it can be difficult to keep up with ever-evolving policies and technology. Please reach out to our trusted team if you have questions and feel free to schedule a consultation.

Sources: Biometric Update, Security Info Watch, GAO

Is Telehealth Helping or Hurting Healthcare’s Bottom Line

Is Telehealth Helping or Hurting Healthcare’s Bottom Line

For years, widespread telehealth adoption was stunted because of strict rules about how doctors could bill. As we all know, the pandemic completely launched these services into the spotlight, as doctors and patients needed efficient ways to stay connect while being physically apart. At the height of the pandemic, officials added 140 telehealth services to the list of what Medicare would pay for during the pandemic, including emergency visits, eye exams, speech and hearing therapy and nursing home care. After an initial telehealth spike to more than 32 percent of office and outpatient visits in April 2020, national use levels now range from 13 to 17 percent across all specialties. But don’t let the drop-off fool you into thinking telehealth is just a passing fad. The current utilization rate reflects more than two-thirds of what experts anticipated as visits that could be virtualized. In a nationwide poll last year, 8 in 10 Americans who had used telehealth said they “liked it” or “loved it.” Nearly the same share said they were likely to continue using it after the pandemic, according to the survey by the Harris Poll.

So, what about patient and physician cost savings?

A study from the American Journal of Emergency Medicine shows that remote care saved an average of $19-$121 per patient through an online consultation compared to traditional doctor visits. Virtual visits can improve patient engagement with check-ins, medication monitoring, and chronic condition management. Many physicians have noted a major decline in patients missing appointments since the adoption of telehealth visits, and a higher patient retention rate within your practice means a more steady revenue stream. Plus, since telehealth hours can be more flexible that traditional in-office visits, people will be more inclined to find a time that works with their primary physician rather than scheduling an appointment with someone new, or making an unnecessary emergency room visit. After all, any medical visit your patients make outside of your practice is lost revenue that you could be earning. Telehealth brings access to millions of new patients so they can get the proper care they need. New patients for your staff members to care for generates more revenue, and creates an overall healthier society.

Will workflow improve?

For many healthcare systems, telemedicine software means digitizing the workflow. We can actually see your staff members jumping for joy when they consider the reduction in physical paperwork and lost medical records. Speaking of saving money and increasing efficiency, providers can also maximize their workflow by incorporating telehealth software into waiting room options, enabling more accurate, less time-intensive billing practices. In a recent USA Today interview, former senior medical official at health insurance giant Anthem, Dr. Hoangmai Pham, believes there is a lot of opportunity for healthcare providers. Pham noted insurers could reward physicians and hospitals that take greater responsibility for their patients’ overall health with higher rates for telehealth.

What does the future hold for telehealth?

Some regulatory changes that enabled telehealth to grow have been made permanent, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ expansion of reimbursable telehealth codes for the 2021 physician fee schedule. However, the fate of other services that may lose their waiver status when the public health emergency ends remains unknown. What we know for sure is that virtual healthcare models are evolving and expanding to a range of services, integrating telehealth with other virtual health solutions, and adding hybrid virtual and in-person care models. The reality is telehealth and virtual medical care is likely to explode in the coming years. The annual global telehealth market is expected to top $300 billion by 2026, up nearly fivefold from 2019, according to research company PitchBook. These new approaches are creating the potential to improve patient convenience, access, health outcomes, and affordability.

Sources: McKinsey, American Journal of Emergency Medicine, USA Today, FS Health, Physicians on Fire

Millions in Funding Headed to NY Libraries

Millions in Funding Headed to NY Libraries

More than $6.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are available to help libraries

and other cultural institutions across the state, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced just last week. The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded the ARPA funds to the New York State Library to help communities respond directly to the pandemic and related economic and community needs. The State Library will allocate more than $5.5 million to the nine regional Reference and Research Library Resources Councils to implement three priority programs:

  1. advancing digital inclusion
  2. encouraging library/museum partnerships
  3. expanding student access to digital resources

“Libraries are critically important to communities, playing a crucial part in New York’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “There is a moral and an economic imperative to remove the inequities that stand in the way of success for whole segments of our student population, as highlighted when school buildings were shut down and many students had little or no access to remote learning. Staff at libraries statewide stepped up to help students and families during the crisis and are doing so again by helping to provide more equitable access to digital services.”

You might be wondering, how this will impact your school library.

The regional library councils will collaborate with public library systems, school library systems and other libraries, museums and cultural repositories to address New York’s three priority programs and meet federal and state goals. Libraries and systems are strongly encouraged to partner with each other and with other community, education and cultural organizations in their region on collaborative projects. Each library council is required to submit an application to the State Library demonstrating accordance with IMLS ARPA guidelines. In accordance with funding requirements, New York State must expend this $6.2 million by September 30, 2022.

Want to learn more about how much funding is headed to your region?

Visit the State Library’s website to see the allocation available for each regional library council. The State Library anticipates issuing detailed guidance, including a timetable and application instructions to the nine regional library councils, by early September 2021. The regional library councils must complete all project activities by June 30, 2022. The State Library, State Museum and State Archives will also use $700,000 to improve and expand access to the Office of Cultural Education’s services for all New Yorkers through a range of collaborative initiatives including to:

  • Build upon the 2021 Digital Equity Summit recommendations by providing expertise, training and tools to support implementation of collaborative Digital Inclusion solutions statewide;
  • Partner with public library systems and libraries to conduct a broadband infrastructure needs assessment for small and rural public libraries in New York;
  • Collaborate with organizations across the state to create a diversity, equity and inclusion framework and toolkit for libraries, museums and cultural institutions;
  • Digitize and make available online core collections from the State Library, State Archives and State Museum for increased public access;
  • Develop collaborative online Museum exhibits showcasing treasures from the collections of the State Library, State Museum and State Archives; and
  • Expand and improve the State’s online summer reading program tools.

Sources: NYSED

The New Staffing Law You Need to Know

The New Staffing Law You Need to Know

Just days ago on June 18, Governor Cuomo signed two bills into law that will change the day-to-day practice for New York hospital and nursing home workers. This new legislation establishes minimum staffing levels for hospitals and nursing homes, asserting understaffing practices at some facilities contributed to COVID-19 infections and deaths. The health care staffing bills are the result of years of debate and discussion and have been highly anticipated by many medical staff members who face physical and mental burn-out after more than a year of unprecedented loss, and immeasurable challenges. For many, it feels like some relief is finally on the way, and for facilities statewide, it means changes are in order immediately to rise to the occasion and properly staff sites.

One bill establishes minimum staffing hours per resident and related provisions for nursing home care statewide.

It comes after more than 13,000 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 complications in long-term care facilities. Nationwide, deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year, with two devastating spikes eight months apart, a government watchdog reported Tuesday. The report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that about 4 in 10 Medicare recipients in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19 in 2020 and that deaths overall jumped by 169,291 from the previous year before the coronavirus appeared.

The other bill requires each New York hospital to establish a committee of nurses and administrators by January 1, 2022, to devise a staffing plan.

It must include specific guidelines or ratios, matrices, or grids indicating how many patients are assigned to each nurse and the number of ancillary staff in each unit. The registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and ancillary staff shall be selected by the staff members themselves. Regardless of the number of committee members, the clinical staff shall have 50 percent of the committee’s votes, with hospital administrators the other 50 percent. Staff advocates view this new law as a critical step in giving voices to the frontline workers who have been confronted with this deadly disease over the past two years. The measure was applauded by the New York State Nurses Association, the labor group that represents nurses in hospitals across the state. “When hospitals and nursing homes fail to staff to safe standards, it’s the patients and residents who suffer,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, the group’s president. “These new laws have the potential to significantly improve the quality of care, to prevent the serious complications that result from understaffing, and to begin to address the gross inequities that exist in our health care system.”

If your facility doesn’t comply, you could face steep fines and violations.

The Health Department is responsible for investigating potential violations of the staffing plan requirements or any unresolved complaints made to the staffing committees. The laws also include provisions to make staffing data publicly available to staff and patients. Hospitals and nursing home facilities alike may be subject to civil penalties for failing to remedy violations if the violations were caused by their failure to act. The time is now to take action and create comprehensive plans that comply with these new requirements.

Sources: Governor.ny, Healthcare Dive, US News

School’s Out for Summer, but are you Staying Connected?

School’s Out for Summer, but are you Staying Connected?

It’s the start of summer, and you know what that means! Your staff has officially survived one of the craziest and most challenging years educators have faced in modern history. Sure, there were probably some tears (and not just from the students) but there was also a lot of flexibility, adaptability, and teamwork. It’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. One of the many challenges of the past calendar year was finding innovative ways to effectively communicate with students and with their parents. For some Hudson Valley school districts, this meant rolling up your sleeves and getting creative. Some schools leaned into the virtual world. Others made a point to ramp up email communications with parents. Regular check-ins on YouTube became the norm for other districts, and some built out their social media presence to stay connected. Now that the dog days of summer are finally here, what does this mean for communication with your students and parents? Students who know and feel known by their teachers are more likely to work hard, behave well, and be open to new ideas. Similarly, families who feel connected to the school are more likely to support the school’s mission and teachers. Your staff worked diligently all year to build and nurture relationships with students and their families. Why stop over the summer?

Encourage Summer School Enrollment, and Attendance

Millions of children this summer will participate in what’s expected to be the largest summer-school program in history, powered by more than $1.2 billion in targeted federal post-pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan. After a school year in which many of the nation’s approximately 56 million K-12 students struggled through some form of remote learning, lost classroom days, and social isolation, summer 2021 programs face the daunting task of teaching academics, while also addressing mental health challenges among students. Many will also be confronted with the nutrition issues children face who missed out on weeks or months of school meals. “We need summer school to be really something different than it has been before. It can’t just be about remediation. It has to be about helping kids get their mojo back,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers union. “This is not about cramming, not about all of a sudden taking 10 months of algebra and putting it into six weeks and collapsing it all together and saying that’s school. This year, it’s about really trying to help kids recover academically, emotionally and socially,” said Weingarten. “And what we’ve learned is that if you help them recover emotionally and socially, it will help them recover academically.”

Stay Connected

Just because you aren’t able to check in with your students daily, doesn’t mean communication has to be cut off until the fall. While it is equally as important for teachers and staff to recharge and unplug after a stressful year, it’s critical to check in with students, particularly ones you are concerned could fall further behind in the COVID-19 learning gap, without proper attention. Reaching out online, via email, over the phone, or even committing to approved in-person home visits with another trusted staff member could be viable options. Many kids are dealing with a multitude of factors working against them as they face months without formal learning opportunities or school structure. Some may also face technology gaps at home, hindering their ability to keep up with summer reading projects or other classroom skills. Consider reaching out with a list of local Hudson Valley resources that kids and parents can take advantage of, free of charge. This site is a fantastic local resource for parents and children to sift through free and at-cost programs kids can attend throughout Hudson Valley all summer long.

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for students in different districts with different levels of needs, but having a conversation about what will benefit your students is the first step in a positive direction. What works for one school—or one individual class—may be completely different from the requirements of another. At RBT, we are committed to keeping education professionals informed of important updates that may impact your future planning. We extend a no-cost consultation to anyone with further questions or interest in working with our dedicated team of professionals.

Sources: Hudson Valley, USAToday

Celebrating National Safety Month

Celebrating National Safety Month

Each year, the National Safety Council (NSC) designates June as National Safety Month. This year, safety in and out of the workplace has been top-of-mind for most of the world because of COVID-19. But while your frontline heroes have been working 24/7 to prioritize your patients and the mounting needs of your community throughout the pandemic, has upper management been checking in with staff?

The NSC reminds organizations that part of being safe is taking care of the physical and mental wellbeing of your workers. It is understandable that during increased times of stress (like a pandemic for instance), it can be more difficult to handle day-to-day activities. It is also important to note that increased levels of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety can also potentially lead to an increase in substance misuse or substance use disorders and an increase in absenteeism.

Below is a guideline you can follow from the NSC to break the month into weekly topics for your team. Consider meeting once a week either in-person or via Zoom to review these topics and spark transformative conversations. Remember, the more in tune you are with your team, the higher employee satisfaction is bound to be. The result? A more positive and productive work environment, and invaluable savings in new-hire training thanks to lower burn-out and turn-over rates. Even as New York begins to get infection rates under control, and COVID-19 related hospitalizations dwindle, the healthcare industry continues to face immense pressure and stress. Make it your job to lighten the load for your staff and show some additional compassion.

Week 1 – Prevent Incidents before They Start: Identifying risks and taking proactive safety measures to reduce hazard exposure is crucial to creating a safe workplace.

Week 2 – Address Ongoing COVID-19 Safety Concerns: As the pandemic continues, employers play an important role in expanding operations and returning remote workers to physical workspaces, building trust around vaccines, supporting mental health and so much more.

Week 3 – It’s Vital to Feel Safe on the Job: Being able to be one’s self at work without fear of retaliation is necessary for an inclusive safety culture. Leading organizations focus not only on physical safety but psychological safety as well.

Week 4 – Advance Your Safety Journey: Safety is all about continuous improvement. Whether organizationally or individually, what can your organization do to advance your path forward?

Another way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Safety Month is to select one safety hero per week to highlight within your team. This can be anyone from cafeteria staff to an E.R. doctor or a member of your administration who demonstrates safety at work and inspires others around them. Consider treating them to lunch, offering them a few hours of PTO, or finding another way to express your gratitude to them. Their actions can set a chain reaction for your other team members to model future behavior off of. Bonus? It illustrates to your organization that upper management cares, recognizes, and rewards high standards. At RBT, we pride ourselves on assisting healthcare professionals to build more sustainable organizations with our comprehensive services. But most importantly, we aim to pass along useful, relevant information to help our communities succeed, grow and prosper. As we continue to dedicate time and resources to help our healthcare clients achieve success, we look forward to connecting with you and your team.

Post-Pandemic School Trend Tracker

Post-Pandemic School Trend Tracker

Over the past several years, the homeschool population had been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% annually, but no one anticipated the explosion of remote learning that came with the pandemic. Whether you are an administrator, a teacher, a parent, a student, or some combination of those roles, there were growing pains felt throughout the education world. Communication breakdowns, bandwidth inequality, homework gaps, you name it and school districts did their best to navigate it. As a majority of schools announce they will resume full in-person learning this fall, we want to take a look at the trends that may be here to stay. After all, the pandemic forced us out of our comfort zones, pushed us to innovate, and challenged us to fail forward.

Remote learning will continue to bridge emergency closures.

We know, “Zoom fatigue” is real, but video conferencing will continue to allow student-teacher and peer-to-peer relationships to remain uninterrupted during future emergency closure situations when distance learning is the only option.

Schools will embrace more creative solutions.

The pandemic provided an ideal scenario to break away from stagnant practices and try new approaches. When face-to-face learning wasn’t an option, passionate educators created school spirit videos, planned drive-by graduations, and prompted virtual events to keep family members all over the world connected to our kids’ achievements. Those approaches helped boost morale, maintain traditions, and strengthen community belonging during extended school closures.

Parents and schools will communicate more, and (hopefully) more effectively.

The frustration was real on both sides, but the forced pivot to distance learning also had a welcomed effect: parents and educators felt more connected as communication increased. Gradually, appreciation grew for one another’s challenges and successes. Educators have commented that it’s one of the more positive trends they hope continues years after the pandemic has ended.

More college students will stay remote.

According to a report from Best Colleges, 49% of students who are enrolled in online classes plan to continue, even after their campuses return to in-person coursework, demonstrating how many students appreciate the distance learning environment.

Distance learning options will remain (at least for some).

Recent information collected by shows that 33% of college and trade school admins are planning to offer both online and offline education choices for students, even after governments ease up on social distancing requirements. If you plan to teach at this level, you’ll almost certainly need to stay up to date on the latest remote teaching developments.

More schools will officially embrace the Cloud.

You can’t teach a class without being able to share resources. Files stored in a secure, cloud-based location are fully customizable so you can set exactly who you want to be able to see and edit particular files. Another feature of cloud storage services is that multiple people can work on documents at once—perfect for getting students engaged in group-based activities or collaborations.

Final Thought

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to education. What works for one school—or one individual class—may be completely different from the requirements of another. Inevitably, schools and local and state governments will also need to address the barriers to internet access so remote learning assignments can be accessed by all students. At RBT, we are committed to keeping education professionals informed of important updates that may impact your future planning. We extend a no-cost consultation to anyone with further questions or interest in working with our dedicated team of professionals.


Sources: K12Dive, ELearning,

Police Reform: Did Your Community Miss the Executive Order 203 Deadline?

Police Reform: Did Your Community Miss the Executive Order 203 Deadline

On August 17, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 – the ‘New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ which mandates that police departments in every municipality in the state come up with a list of reforms they plan to implement, or risk losing state and federal funding. In response, many municipalities are creating Police Reform and Reinvention Committees, but still, others have failed to submit their plan to the State Budget Director by the April 1, 2021 deadline. If your municipality has not yet formed a plan to address this order, read on to see if you need to act now.

What Police Entities are Subject to EO 203?

This process is only for local governments that have police agencies operating with police officers. New York State defines police officers under Criminal Procedure Law Section 1.20. For most counties, the majority of employees with police powers are within the Sherriff’s Department. However, it is important to review this summary which includes a police power list to see if your county has any agencies that would be subject to this process, plan review, and adoption.

EO 203 Overview:

1) Review: EO 203 calls on any local government policing entity to perform a review of current “police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices.”

2) Plan Development: In coordination of such review, the local government “Chief Executive” of any local government with a local police agency must “convene the head of the local police agency, and “stakeholders” in the community to develop such plan. The stakeholders must be consulted with and allowed to make plan recommendations.

3) Adoption or Ratification of Plan: Such plan must be offered for public comment to all citizens in the locality, and after consideration of such comments, shall be presented to the local legislative body in such political subdivision, which shall ratify or adopt such plan by local law or resolution, as appropriate, no later than April 1, 2021.

4) Submit Plan to DOB: Such local government shall transmit a certification to the Director of the Division of the Budget to affirm that such process has been complied with and such local law or resolution has been adopted.

Getting Started

It’s been a tremendously challenging year for everyone, and we understand first responders and elected officials are under a lot of pressure. Ultimately, everyone will benefit from fostering a culture of self-evaluation, empathy, and caring for one another. If you feel overwhelmed or unsure how to begin this process, we suggest inviting residents to participate in a Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Survey as a way to give the community a voice and start a thoughtful dialogue with members and leaders of your local police department, and elected officials. Be sure to advertise your plans on various social platforms to spread the word and boost engagement. Statewide, many municipalities have been able to generate valuable data and insight to plan future efforts. It is important to note that several attorneys authored a letter addressed to the governor that attracted over 300 signatures calling for the EO 203 April 1 deadline to be extended. In a statement, the governor’s office said that the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services “has been proactively reaching out to law enforcement leadership across the state to help support them…in achieving the goals of the executive order.” And that the “division of the budget will review that municipalities have, in fact, complied with the law.” We understand this is a complex and sensitive issue for many communities. We encourage you to contact our team today if you have concerns about how this executive order could impact your federal funding, or other questions surrounding the unique factors that impact the government sector.

Sources: Governor.NY.GOV, Spectrum