It’s hard to tell which industry has been most scrambled by the pandemic. One candidate is public education, which is mostly a mess. But federal employees can obtain tutoring thanks to a program of the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund. For more of what its doing in a weird holiday season, Federal Drive with Tom Temin turned to FEEA executive director Joyce Warner.
Tom Temin: Joyce, always good to have you on.
Joyce Warner: Good to see you Tom.
Tom Temin: Tell us about the tutoring program, where it comes from. And then we’ll get into what the take up has been.
Joyce Warner: We’ve been hearing from a lot of federal employees obviously, that they are navigating having their kids in a, we call it, a disrupted environment, whether they’re home all the time in virtual school, home half the time and half the time in person are really in school. But with social distancing, masks, not a lot of activities, it’s disrupted. And you’ve probably heard a lot of the stories about their concerns, about maybe this group of kids falling behind long term. So and we’re going to be in March, most of the schools in our area, and I think nationally, will have been in this disruption for a year. So we are worried and hearing people’s concerns. We looked into what kind of support we could provide and we developed a partnership to offer tutoring, virtual tutoring in every subject for all K through 12 kids. And if you are a federal employee who earns under $100,000, it’s free for your children. And that is thanks to very generous support from the federal Long Term Care Insurance Program and Blue Cross Blue Shield association working with us to support families. And so we found out that actually the military, DoD has provided this benefit to servicemen and women since 2009. And so when we learned about that, and then we learned that this year, they were opening it to DoD civilians because of the pandemic. And we heard Coast Guard Mutual Aid Society was doing it for Coast Guard civilians. And then we said that’s awesome. But what about all the other feds, and Sophia came to work for all the other civilian and postal employees. And it’s it’s it’s been huge. I mean, it’s been amazing.
Tom Temin: Wow. And what has the take up been so far this season?
Joyce Warner: Yeah, so I learned last night, there were 3,693 federal employees who had signed up and that’s just since November 2 and 6,568 kids. We have feds from every state, the territories, those stationed overseas, every agency just about large and small, it’s been wildly popular. And he and what we’re trying to tell people to do is go to our site feea.org forward slash tutor. Sign up now. Because what’s going to happen is my staff work very hard, but if you if at 10 o’clock on a Sunday, you realize your kid has a test the next day, no one’s going to be there to help you. So and while the tutors are there, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unfortunately, few staff work regular regular business hours. But we know even in that first one people have registered maybe they haven’t used yet, but 15,000 on one tutoring sessions have happened in the last month.
Tom Temin: And these are live tutoring sessions or recorded?
Joyce Warner: Live, yep, 24 hours a day, and ever all subject matter experts. So our partnership, we piggybacked off the military partner, because we figured, well the military has been kicking the tires on that for a long time. So it’s with tutor.com. Most of them have advanced degrees, and every subject so you can have somebody help you with early grade reading, and you can have somebody help you with AP chemistry, and LSAT prep. And I will tell you, and also this one super exciting for me, as parents are dealing more, one on one coaching for parents, are your kids having trouble studying, or your kids having trouble getting motivated. How do you fill in the knowledge gaps, you as the parent can get a one on one session with a tutor to coach you on coaching your kids.
Tom Temin: Well, maybe you could get a coffee or because everybody’s tearing their hair out while their kids are home to kind of tough situation.
Joyce Warner: We get some very cute quotes, sometimes from the kids anonymously that gets sent back to us. And a lot of them are wonderful. My most favorite is the tutor explained the math problems really better, and really better than my mom. And that was from a second grader.
Tom Temin: I have been into the homes virtually have so many federal people doing interviews, they’re mostly younger than I am. And I see the kids sometimes in the background and they sometimes say, oh my god, this is so great to have an interview, I get 10 minutes away from the madness that is daily life in a pandemic home. And let’s widen this to the season. What has been the demand for FEEA, other grants and loans and so forth? And what are you seeing this year?
Joyce Warner: So I mean, when does the season start and stop with COVID, right. I mean, it’s been a long haul, but I will tell you that we are seeing increased deaths of federal employees now most recently and we get contacted by human resources or unions or families themselves. And we’ve been prior to providing financial assistance to those families where the fed has passed away, or where the fed lost their spouse or things like that. We’re worried if the families first leave does not get extended, that people will have a lot of leave without pay. We’ve had to help some families who used at the families first leave and all their sick and all their vacation and still had leave without pay. But we’re worried that that will be an incredible need that will be difficult to meet at scale, if that leave is not continued for federal employees. So we are watching that closely. And then what we are also trying to focus on some of the other things that we do, right, well, the FEEA does merit scholarships over 200 every year. Those are out you can apply a start applying, the deadlines in March. So we also are looking ahead and beyond the virus for federal families. And we also have things happen every day, we have people who have a brain tumor, there are other things happening beyond the virus, even though that dominates and is first and foremost for most.
Tom Temin: Sure. And beyond the grant that would enable you to give the tutoring, how’s the income side been the donations?
Joyce Warner: Well, we are in the middle of our end of year campaign now. So people we have been getting some support, we’re hoping for more support because again, we’re gearing up for what’s going to be probably a scary winter for a lot of families. And you can give directly to FEEA at feea.org forward slash give, or through the Combined Federal Campaign which that the campaign is open right now for pledging to 11185.
Tom Temin: Got it. And that is available nationally, not just in the DC area.
Joyce Warner: Yes, FEEA is a national charity. So we are part of every campaign zone for the Combined Federal Campaign.
Tom Temin: And so far as the CFC coming into FEEA, how’s that running relative to last year and say last few years?
Joyce Warner: My impression is that the CFC has been shrinking each year for all not just for FEEA, but for all charities. And of course, they’re under special pressure this year, because their ability to do outreach is virtual. And some of the ways that people were engaged previously are not happening. We have participated probably in 15 events nationally talking about FEEA different all regions of the US. But we know that people have their preference of how to give. And for FEEA, we have multiple channels of how you can give and we support. And we appreciate all the help we get in whatever channel you choose.
Tom Temin: I guess that’s really a challenge for a lot of charities and charitable organizations is the event business has switched to virtual. I was talking with the head of USO, this is the season when they have balls and fundraisers and really great gala events, all of it virtual, and sort of try to keep up the revenue. Without that emotional touch that can come from the live events, that’s a big challenge.
Joyce Warner: It is a big challenge. And we had to postpone our five k last year, which is our big in person event. We’re not sure yet what 2021 will hold, we’re monitoring that. And it wouldn’t be till May anyway. So we’re waiting to see what happens. But these are things that are very difficult for charities. But I do think that many individuals see this need and are filling it directly, they’re donating. I know my family has also has a number of charities in the community that we’ve been supporting because we can see that it’s difficult for them right now. And the need is great.
Tom Temin: Well, pretty soon I’m going to get down to planning the 2021 motorcycle ride for charity, of which FEEA is a beneficiary sponsored by Federal News Network, so that you can count on.
Joyce Warner: Excellent. Well, I know and we know we’re going to have great weather like we did last year, and I’m sure the virus will be much further behind us by then. So we’ll have a great crowd.
Tom Temin: Alright. Joyce Warner is executive director of the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund. As always great talking with you.
Joyce Warner: Thanks Tom. Happy Holidays.
Tom Temin: And to you.