First Responder COVID-19 Stipend FAQ’s

Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the program the State has developed in conjunction with NH Municipal Association

     

Additional questions can be directed to covidhazardpay@dos.nh.gov or (603) 271-2231.

I have a responder who works for multiple agencies, who should they receive the stipend from?

 If the responder works for multiple agencies the responder can only receive the stipend once and should let their employers know which agency is providing the stipend.

What is considered full-time?

Full-time status is defined as working 30 or more hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month).

An ambulance service that does transports, but not 911 response, are they eligible?

Yes, as long as they have a contract with a long term care facility.

Are administrative support staff with public contact eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

Are code inspectors eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

Are dispatchers/communications specialists eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

Are health officers eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

Are junior firefighters eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

Are juvenile probation and patrol officers eligible for the stipend?

No, not at this time.

We are a volunteer fire department, if our responders go to a call for service at any point in time during the week, do they qualify for the part time stipend?

If they are in good standing, qualified, willing and available to respond to and perform the required responsibilities of their respective position that week then they are eligible. The number of calls responded to that week does not matter.

What about stipends for eligible individuals hired during the stipend period?  We continue to hire responders, and would not want them left out for any period of the 8 weeks 2 days that they should qualify for.

They would be eligible for the time they are qualified, willing and available to respond to and perform the required responsibilities of their respective position. 

Active member “in good standing”: Do individual organizations have the flexibility to define the “good standing?”

Yes, the agency defines “good standing.”

Do on call hours count towards the 30 hours per week to get someone into a full-time v. part time call?

No, on call hours do not count towards the full time status.

If we have a responder who works for two departments (Fire and EMS) and they go over 30 hours in a week would they qualify for the full time stipend?

Yes, if they are working for single municipality and working 30 or more hours in that week. If they work for two separate municipalities but neither equal 30 or more hours, then no, they would not qualify for full time.

If a full-time first responder who is eligible for a $300 per week stipend also serves as a volunteer or on-call staff person in another municipality, are they eligible for a second stipend of $150 per week?

No, the guidance and instructions specifically limits the payment to one stipend per week. It is recommended that municipalities obtain some form of certification that the first responder will not receive a second stipend from another municipality.   

Do you recommend municipalities/agencies certify that their responders do not receive a second stipend from another municipality or agency?

Yes, here is an example. First Responder COVID-19 Stipend Program Request Form – Sample

Is there a minimum threshold of hours worked to qualify for the program?

Full-time status:  Full-time status is defined as working 30 or more hours per week (or at least 130 hours per month).

Part-time status: Part-time status is defined as working fewer than 30 hours per week.  During this state of emergency, it is recognized that some part-time first responders are actively working 30 or more hours per week.  For the purposes of this stipend, these persons should be treated as working full-time for the weeks they actively work 30 or more hours.

If a first responder is full-time and takes some vacation leave that would bring their actual hours worked for a week below 30 hours, would they be eligible for the $150 stipend for part-time (that week) or would they not be eligible for any stipend that week?

If the responder is full time, qualified, willing and available to respond to and perform the required responsibilities of their respective position, they are eligible for the full time stipend.

If a first responder is on leave (such as medical, FMLA, military, annual, etc.) and are unable and unavailable to respond are they eligible for the stipend.

No, the responder must be willing and available to respond to and perform the required responsibilities of their respective position.

Can an employer refuse to pay the stipend?

Yes, it is a voluntary program.

Are the stipends subject to applicable payroll taxes?

Yes, the stipends are subject to applicable employer and employee payroll taxes. Any 457 Retirement Plan deferrals (not NH Retirement System) would need to be taken out. Group II is exempt from Social Security.

Will the state reimburse municipalities to cover the employer share of payroll taxes?

Yes, municipalities can choose to use the CARES Municipal Relief Funds for employer paid payroll taxes associated with the stipends.

Does the stipend need to be included as reportable income if the responder is collecting unemployment?

It would need to be reported as income.  However, the state allows people to make up to 30% of the state’s benefit (if you are collecting $427 a week, the state allows up to $128 a week without affecting the benefit.  A $150 stipend would reduce the $427 by $22.  So the applicant would collect the $150 stipend plus $405 in an unemployment benefit).  The stipend does NOT affect the $600 federal unemployment benefit.

Should the first responder stipend be included in the calculation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rate?

Yes, NH Department of Labor had determined that the stipend should be included in the FLSA overtime rate.

If first responders received the $300 stipend on top of their regular hours worked, how does OT apply?

The weekly stipend must be allocated to a non-exempt employee’s hourly wages for OT purposes. So if a non-exempt stipend recipient works more than 40 hours, you would be making your OT calculation based not on the employee’s normal rate of pay but instead on the effectively increased hourly rate of pay resulting from the weekly stipend.

Can municipalities use Municipal Relief Fund funds to offset the difference in the overtime money that arise out of the First Responder stipends? 

Yes

Is there a problem if the stipend causes the salary for a particular position to exceed the municipality’s salary cap?

The stipend could be viewed as a limited, one-time federally funded “hazardous duty” pay. We are not sure how that would create a problem regarding a municipal salary cap.     

Should additional compensation paid to first responders under the state’s First Responder COVID-19 Stipend Program be reported as earnable compensation?

NHRS has determined that these payments are not “earnable compensation” for NHRS purposes. The payments are made under the First Responder COVID-19 Stipend Program pursuant to a statewide policy and are temporary payments designed to support first responders who remain at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  For these reasons, and to assure that these payments are treated consistently for NHRS purposes by all participating employers, NHRS has determined that the payments are not “base compensation.  In addition, the payments are not one of the other types of compensation otherwise expressly included in the definition of “earnable compensation” under NHRS law.  Therefore, any payments made pursuant to the First Responder COVID-19 Stipend Program are not “earnable compensation” and these payments are not reportable to NHRS.

Employers have been directed by the state Department of Labor to include COVID-19 stipends as part of an employee’s hourly rate of pay for the purposes of determining the employee’s hourly rate of overtime pay. Is the additional overtime based on the higher hourly rate earnable compensation?

Yes. Overtime is earnable compensation reportable to NHRS as compensation over base at whatever the applicable overtime hourly rate is – whether or not that rate is calculated by including the stipend in the “regular rate of pay.”

Note: Even if the stipends are included in determining the employee’s “regular rate of pay” for the purposes of determining the overtime rate under the FLSA rules; this does not change the fact that, for NHRS purposes, the stipends themselves are not earnable compensation. 

FAQ: https://www.nhrs.org/faqs/faq—covid-19-guidance-for-participating-employers

 When do the worksheets need to be submitted by?

June 1, 2020

Should there be only one submission per municipality or by department?

It is up to the municipality. We will accept one form for the whole municipality or by department.

Why does 8 weeks at $300 per week calculate to $2,485.71 on the spreadsheet?  What is the additional $85.71 for?

The stipend is for 8 weeks and 2 days, the extra $85.71 is the rate for 2 days.

Do we submit weekly and receive a check weekly or are we expected to front load the funds and are reimbursed?

You can submit the spreadsheet for the entire 8 weeks and 2 days, State Treasury will send you the funds and then you pay your employees.  If you want to pay the responder weekly, biweekly or in one lump sum is up to your organization.

Department Heads/Chiefs/Company owners or managers are responsible for submitting their member’s information under the appropriate category. In an effort to simplify the process and assist communities/ agencies with potential cash flow concerns, one submission for the entire eligibility period will be accepted.  Each approved agency will receive a single payment for the entire eligibility period following the submission.

All submissions are subject to audit and any funds that are not spent in accordance with this guidance may be subject to recoupment. Department Heads/Chiefs/Company owners or managers may also be asked to provide additional information as necessary to ensure compliance with Federal requirements.

Do we need to fill out any paperwork other than the spreadsheet in order to receive payment from the state?

If your organization/entity is not a registered vendor with the State of New Hampshire you will need to register in order to receive payment from the State. You can submit your online vendor registration at:  https://das.nh.gov/purchasing/vendorresources.aspx

The State Treasury website for additional resources regarding vendors can be found at: https://www.nh.gov/treasury/vendor-resources/index.htm

Will the State pay the first responder stipend directly?

No, the stipends will be paid by the municipality or agency and reimbursed by the state.

Who is considered an “Authorized Official”?  Police Chief? Finance Director?

Determined by the municipality or agency.

Will the municipality/agency need to track these funds as a stipend payment?

Yes, the municipality/agency will be responsible to track funds as a stipend payment for audit purposes.

Can the municipality/agency pay the stipend at the end of this program in a single lump sum to the responders?

Yes

How will you know that someone has worked required hours and is eligible for this stipend?

Agencies will need to determine what hours the responders work during the time period.

Do we need to get approval to overspend our police/fire budget due to these stipends?

Since the stipends and associated payroll costs will be reimbursed, the police/fire budgets should not be overspent due to these stipends.

Should municipalities pay the stipends through the payroll system or through the accounts payable system with issuance of a 1099?

NHMA recommends processing the stipends through the payroll system.

If all of our firefighters are volunteers who receive no compensation for their volunteer services, are we required to have them fill out all applicable employment forms just to process this stipend through payroll rather than through accounts payable with a subsequent 1099 issued?

NHMA recommends processing the stipends through the payroll system.

How is the money to cover first responder stipends accepted by our municipality?

NHMA issued guidance on accepting funds under the CARES Act. This may be done under the statutory authority of RSA 21-P:43, which, unlike RSA 31:95-b regarding unanticipated revenues, does not require a public hearing. 

Are these stipends part of the CARES Municipal Relief Fund allocation?

No, the stipends are not part of the $32 million MRF, but come from a separate allocation of $25 million of the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. However, as previously answered, payroll costs associated with the stipends can be reimbursed from the MRF.