Government Shutdown Q&A with Shane Canfield
WAEPA (Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies), a nonprofit Voluntary Employee Benefits Association which offers Group Term Life Insurance* exclusively to Civilian Federal Employees, made headlines in January when they announced they were waiving January’s premiums for all their members, including those for Members not impacted by the partial Government Shutdown, which went on for 35 days from December 21, 2018 to January 25, 2019, and affected approximately 22% of Federal workers.
Shane Canfield has been the CEO of WAEPA since March 2016, and he works closely with the organization’s Board of Directors to increase membership and drive strategic operations for the organization, which has been in business since 1943.
Shane, what is WAEPA?
We are a 501(c)(9) nonprofit offering Group Term Life Insurance exclusively to Civilian Federal Employees and their families. We’re a membership organization, so we exist to truly serve our members, and offer them several benefits beyond life insurance policies, such as free financial planning, a scholarship program, educational resources tailored specifically to Feds, and more. We’re based in Falls Church, Virginia, and we’ve been in business for over 75 years.
What made WAEPA decide to issue this account credit?
As the shutdown continued, we were getting calls from members concerned about being able to pay their premiums. Many of our members pay via payroll allotment, and weren’t receiving a paycheck, or simply needed the cash to fund other priorities. We understood the struggle that many Feds were facing during the shutdown and wanted to help them through this very challenging period.
How did WAEPA decide to issue this credit?
Once we discussed details internally, the idea was presented to the Board of Directors. Our Board, comprised of active and retired Civilian SES Federal Employees, voted unanimously and enthusiastically to issue the credit, thereby not charging any premium for the month of January. This move is squarely in our Mission and because of decades of sound financial management at WAEPA, we are able to help our members with this real and tangible financial relief.
Who was the credit issued to?
All of our Members’ January premiums were waived, even those not impacted by the shutdown, Associate Members, retirees, etc. This is not a loan and January premiums do not need to be paid back at a later date; the premium has been waived.
What was WAEPA hoping to accomplish with this?
We were looking to provide some relief to our members. The stories we heard over and over about Feds being financially stressed were alarming, and we wanted to help.
What will WAEPA do if the government shutdown continues, or if more happen in the future?
Our organization has been in business since FDR was President, so we’ve seen every shutdown in our Nation’s history. This account credit is the first that we’ve issued. Since shutdowns are rare, we will evaluate on a case-by-case basis going forward, always keeping our members at the forefront of every discussion.
How has your membership responded to the news?
We’ve been flooded with calls, comments, and emails expressing appreciation from our membership. Many members reflect on their long tenure with WAEPA, and say that they feel proud to be part of the organization:
“Thank you for taking action to waive the January premium on my insurance account. This decision is extremely helpful to my family, as I am one of the many federal employees who is required to continue to perform my duties at work while waiting for the government to reopen.”
“Although I am retired and was largely unaffected by the hiatus, I am confident members who are well away from realizing my status and struggling financially were encouraged by the concern and solidarity WAEPA’s account credit demonstrated.”
“Your offer to remove the payment due during the furlough period was one of many combined offers of consideration that made the financial uncertainties of a furlough period less stressful for families caught in the midst of all this.”
Interestingly, we also had Members call in who were not impacted by the shutdown and wanted to “donate” their credits to other Members who were furloughed. We’re proud of how our Members have reacted to the credit, and are continuously proud to serve them.
What would you say to Feds who aren’t yet familiar with WAEPA, but heard about you in the news because of this?
I would encourage them to learn more about us! Our organization offers competitive rates on Group Term Life Insurance, which can be less than the federally-offered FEGLI program, and several additional member benefits, like our premium refund program. It’s not “smoke and mirrors” – WAEPA is truly an organization For Feds, By Feds, and we encourage all Civilian Federal Employees to visit waepa.org to learn more about us.
Members with questions about how this credit will impact their accounts are encouraged to visit waepa.org/shutdown to see more information. Those not currently insured by WAEPA who are interested in learning more about the organization may visit waepa.org or call (800) 368-3484 to speak to someone from WAEPA’s Member Services team.
Underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company, 51 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010 on Policy Form GMR
This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.