After years of squeezing employees to help balance its budget, MARTA hopes to boost morale by offering a benefits program with interest-free payments, via a payroll deduction plan, on purchases ranging from legal services to computers.
The program is being ramped up as MARTA’s leadership has implemented of a number of cost-saving measures, some of them in the face of strong opposition from some employees.
Some jobs have been outsourced, personnel costs were reduced as rail and bus service was reduced, and wages were frozen. These changes resulted from a 2012 management audit that showed MARTA would exhaust its reserve funds by 2018 unless steps were taken to reduce expenses.
With the fiscal outlook stabilized, MARTA is turning to one of the nation’s fastest-growing types of voluntary benefits programs in order to raise morale.
The advantage of these programs for employers is the ability to offer current and potential employees a benefit that doesn’t cost the company money or administrative hassle, according to one contractor, McGrath Affinity. For employees, the benefit is access to a source of credit, typically free for 12 months, that doesn’t require a background check or a ding on a credit score for submitting an application for credit.
Credit limits typically are based on salary and tenure with the company, typically a minimum of six to 12 months, according to McGrath Affinity’s website.
MARTA issued a request for proposals July 6 stating MARTA’s intent to:
MARTA has built a number of self-protection clauses into its RFP.
For instance, MARTA specifies that it is not responsible for any unresolved payments between the contractor and employee.
MARTA won’t mediate any disputes, because its only sole responsibility will be, “management and administration of the payroll deduction process and for reviewing and approving communication materials.”
If a situation compels MARTA to intervene, the contractor will pay MARTA an administrative fee to resolve disputes. None of the fee will be passed on to a MARTA employee.
MARTA plans to give the program a three-year try-out. Depending how things work out, MARTA can terminate the contract early or extend it for two, one-year extensions.
MARTA has identified four types of goods and services that it wants offer eligible employees. MARTA is willing to hire one or more contractors for the four categories of benefits to be offered.
The deadline for responses to the RFP was extended to Aug. 22, from the original deadline of Aug. 6. MARTA hosted a pre-proposal conference July 16.
Here’s a full description of each benefits category, as outlined in a MARTA document: