USF could offer benefits for domestic partners soon

USF’s United Faculty of Florida (UFF) chapter will vote today on the final draft of a proposal to offer health care benefits for University employees’ domestic partners.

If passed, benefits could be offered as early as next month, said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dwayne Smith.

The projected cost will be $500,000 annually to fund a stipend offered in the benefits package, Smith said.

In response to the University of Florida’s announcement to offer  some benefits four years ago, state legislation passed a law that prohibits the use of state money to support benefits, he said.

As a result, USF had to find another source of funding. Auxiliary funds collected from vending machines will support the stipend, Smith said.

A $500 cap per individual was placed on the stipend, which pays the difference between the family and single plan the University offers, said Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for the Office of Human Resources.

“If you’re employed with the University, you have an option. You can either elect single coverage or family coverage,” she said. “The difference is about $500 a month because the University pays more if you have a family plan.”

Among USF’s 13,000 employees 6,000 are eligible for benefits, said University spokesman Michael Hoad. The national estimate for eligible employees who will use the benefits is 1 percent, he said.

Benefit packages will be offered to same and opposite-sex domestic partners, Lovins said.

“They will attest or declare that there is an emotionally-committed relationship where there is shared, joint responsibilities for the common welfare,” Lovins said.

Recipients must provide proof that such a relationship exists based on 11 different criteria, including a joint-bank account or a last will testament.

Candidates must also prove they have lived with their partner for at least six months, and their partner must be unemployed to be eligible for health care benefits, Lovins said.

After UFF votes, the USF Board of Trustees will vote by the end of this week, said Sherman Dorn, president of the UFF.