When USF began offering benefits packages to employees with domestic partners on Feb. 1, university spokesman Michael Hoad said that 6,000 of the University’s 13,000 employees were eligible.
But only nine currently take advantage of it.
For Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for the Office of Human Resources, however, the lack of interest in the program is not a concern, saying it could be for a number of reasons.
“It depends on what is going on in people’s personal situations (or) whether they have a partner who is eligible for insurance coverage,” she said.
The domestic partner of a USF employee must be either unemployed or ineligible for health care benefits through his or her employer.
The program provides benefits for same-sex or heterosexual unmarried couples. To qualify, applicants must provide proof of their relationship, such as a joint bank account or lease, and verification that they have resided together for at least six months.
Only three applications so far have been denied for not meeting the requirements.
“I think it is going to continue to grow. What we always see is the getting off the ground (stage),” Lovins said. “I’m anticipating that is the same thing that will happen here.”
The benefits package, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in January, includes a stipend and a salary supplement added to an employee’s paycheck every month – not to exceed $500.
When the University of Florida announced it would begin offering the benefits to faculty members four years ago, state legislators passed a law preventing the use of state money to fund them. As a result, USF had to find another way to pay for its plan.
It uses auxiliary funds, which include money from campus vending machines and concessions stands, set aside to pay for the $500,000 stipend. Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dwayne Smith said to The Oracle in January that these funds are enough to fully support the stipend’s price tag.
USF President Judy Genshaft announced in September that the University would be offering the benefits, following years of lobbying from the Committee on Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the United Faculty of Florida (UFF).
Those promises came into fruition in December, when UFF members voted to allow employees who hold an “in-unit” position, including professors and librarians, to be eligible to receive the benefits.
Sherman Dorn, president of the UFF chapter at USF, said it will take time for employees to make themselves available for the benefits. He said he hopes to see the number increase this fall, when new employees that may qualify for the benefits start at USF.
“This is pretty consistent with the experience of other universities,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”