May 22, 2020

Allstate employees inspire new temporary leave policy for pandemic medical volunteers

In order to help employees answer the call to help during the COVID-19 crisis, Allstate created a new program to provide up to six months of leave for certified medical or emergency personnel.

Allstate employee Bryan Dumas has over a decade of experience as an EMT and firefighter. He stepped up as a volunteer to help Illinois respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Novel coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, keeping the demand for additional health care workers high. As people with medical training answer the call for volunteers, Allstaters can do so knowing their jobs and health insurance are secure.

“Honestly, this wasn’t even going through my mind when I raised my hand,” said Claims Customer Service Analyst and pandemic volunteer Michelle Stump, a former unit manager for trauma and pediatric intensive care teams. “But knowing my company would support me, that my son would be taken care of, and I could just go and help–that’s key.”

Stump and fellow Allstate volunteer Bryan Dumas inspired Allstate’s new Voluntary Pandemic Medical Time. The policy provides up to six months of leave to employees who are certified medical and/or emergency personnel. It also provides supplemental pay to cover any pay differentials.

Both Stump and Dumas said they were “blown away” by how fast Allstate moved to approve their leave and create a policy. Heather Wilson, a third volunteer who works in Allstate’s Indiana Express office, said the policy was approved the day she decided to volunteer. A civilian EMT for 10 years before joining Allstate, Wilson recently returned from pandemic duty on the East Coast, where she responded to 911 calls from New Jersey and New York.

“It was very hard to experience. It really is as bad as it is made out to be,” said Wilson, who worked 12-hour shifts for four weeks.

Wilson, Stump and Dumas have paved the way for other Allstaters with the required medical background to join the fight against COVID-19. In the U.S. alone, 5 percent of Allstate’s workforce, or thousands of employees, are certified as medical personnel, according to Carrie Blair, EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer.

“A policy like this wasn’t actually on our radar screen,” said Blair, “until employees stepped up and said, ‘Hey, I’m licensed. I think I could really help. Will the company support me in doing this?’ We felt that now, more than ever, is the time to empower our employees to come together to help fight this global pandemic, and the team quickly worked to bring this idea to life.”

“I feel this will be a policy that stands forever now. You can compare it to being in the Reserves,” said Dumas, who spent 10 years in the Navy as an EMT firefighter and four years in emergency services in Florida, including as a volunteer firefighter. “You don’t have to worry about your one weekend a month or two weeks in the summer. It’s automatic. They give you the time off, and you come back to your job when you’re done.”

Dumas learned about Illinois’s call for volunteers from his sister, also an Allstate employee. “I knew he would want to volunteer. It’s his passion,” said Heather Dumas, Workforce Operations Director in Human Resources, one of several people who helped get the ball rolling on the new policy.

Bryan Dumas said he appreciates everything Allstate has done to support customers and communities, including the Shelter-in-Place Payback, special payment plan and other consumer efforts. “But they’re also willing to give employees who want to help fight the coronavirus a stress-free environment.”

"It's hard to see the health care workers–the hours they're working. You can just see how tired they are on their faces. It's heartbreaking." —Allstate volunteer Bryan Dumas

By June 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the number of reported deaths in the U.S. are likely to exceed 100,000. The increased numbers add urgency to the need for volunteers with medical backgrounds, especially as states that have partially reopened see an increase in coronavirus cases. That means even more stress on doctors, nurses and other medical professionals across the country.

“It’s hard to see the health care workers–the hours they’re working. You can just see how tired they are on their faces. It’s heartbreaking,” Dumas said.

The images and stories of health care workers also weigh on Stump. She was asked by her former employer, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, to come back and work 14- 15-hour shifts. Stump couldn’t at the time, but she did go online to the Illinois Helps website to register as a volunteer. That gave her time to talk to her three brothers and make child care arrangements for her 2-year-old son, Kristopher.

Stump was told she would work 12-hour shifts, 21 days straight, then have three days off at Chicago’s McCormick Place, a conference center turned makeshift staging an area for hospital overflow. But in early May she was released from her volunteer service as Illinois’s cases leveled off and McCormick Place operations wound down. According to state officials, prevention strategies such as social distancing and a statewide stay-at-home order have worked so well that the original 3,000 beds proposed for the site are not needed to alleviate area hospitals.

Her health care experience began as a teenager, after her mother, Connie, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

“I did everything I could to become an expert about her condition,” said Stump, a college freshman at the time who also became her mother’s primary caregiver. “She was on the transplant list for nine months, and I prayed every single night that God would let me get through spring finals, so I would be all my mom’s. We got the call the day after my last final–at 2:30 a.m.—that there was a liver waiting for her.”

Her mother lived another 16 years, a year past life expectancy for a transplant patient, Stump said. “That experience is so much of why I am the way I am,” said Stump, who earned her bachelor’s degree in social science with a minor in education. After her mom died in 2013, she went back to school and got her nursing degree.

She landed at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, where her dad lived. When he died in 2014, she returned home to Illinois and her brothers. That’s when a friend suggested that with her background, Stump might enjoy working in insurance.

As a claims customer service analyst for Encompass, Stump handles things like disability claims from auto accidents, or claims stemming from fatalities or people on life support. It’s helpful that “I speak doctor fluidly,” she said. “It’s also being able to take care of the customer. Whether it’s a car accident or major fatality, they’ve been through a trauma.”

Dumas agrees. “As a catastrophe claims adjuster, I’ve worked a few hurricanes, tornadoes, huge hail storms. You’re working with people who have just gone through a traumatic experience. I relate that to what people are going through with COVID-19. You’re there to help them put their mind at ease.”

Dumas is still waiting to hear if he will be needed. “I applied for the expedited recertifications, and I’m ready. But I’m looking at this as a long-haul thing. God forbid, if six months from now they need another group of volunteers, I want them to be able to call on me then. I understand that they might not need me right now.”

And if something else ever comes up and medical volunteers are needed, he adds, “People here will have that ease of knowing they can come forward and volunteer–and not worry about anything.”

Wilson agreed. “I will always step forward to help during times of crisis. That’s why I really appreciate working for this company. Allstate practices what they preach.”


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