TAMPA — University of South Florida trustees this week approved offering health benefits to domestic partners of USF employees.
"This is the right thing to do," said professor of education Sherman Dorn, the president of USF's faculty union, which has worked on securing the benefits for five years.
USF administrators aren't sure how many employees will apply for the benefits, but they've budgeted $500,000 for the coverage. They said the money will not come from state revenues or USF Foundation funds.
In the past they have said it will be drawn from revenue sources such as concessions.
The USF system has about 13,000 employees on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Lakeland. Of those, about 6,000 are eligible to receive university benefits and thus would potentially be eligible for domestic partner benefits.
Based on national averages of employers who provide the benefits, USF administrators said they expect about 1 percent of those 6,000 employees, or 60 people, to participate. The benefits are available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples, faculty and non-faculty.
Partners of employees can get the benefit from USF if they don't qualify for any other health insurance and have exhausted COBRA benefits, USF senior vice provost Dwayne Smith said.
Under the program, USF will provide a stipend of up to $500 a month for the purchase of health insurance for the employee's partner. If the partner later becomes eligible for health insurance, the employee loses the stipend.
To make sure employees don't abuse the benefit, USF will require employees and their partners to file a declaration saying they have lived and shared financial responsibilities together for at least six months and are in an emotionally committed relationship.
If the partner is employed, he or she must show proof that his or her employer does not provide health insurance or that the partner can't qualify for it.
They also must meet at least three of 11 other criteria, including owning property, having bank accounts or holding credit cards jointly, having a driver's license with the same address, having legal guardianship of dependents together or designating each other as beneficiaries for life insurance or retirement plans.
The subsidy is taxable, and the recipients will have to demonstrate proof of securing the insurance, Smith said.
Offering the benefits is expected to help USF compete with schools like Rutgers, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University in attracting new faculty members.
"Now we can recruit and retain the talent we need to move this university forward," USF provost Ralph Wilcox told Dorn after the trustees' vote Thursday.
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.