Updates on COVID-19 and Recent Market Volatility

In the rapidly escalating effect of COVID-19 on daily life, our utmost concern is keeping our associates and the public safe, while ensuring your college savings plan is working for you. Given recent market volatility, account holders should remain calm and evaluate their risk tolerance as well as any short-term and long-term needs when selecting their investment choices. In an effort to follow CDC guidelines on how we may best prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office and Union Bank & Trust have postponed all Bright Start-related outreach, field representative visits, information sessions, and events. Almost all staff, including call center staff, have transitioned to working remotely from home. While we implement measures to protect public health, all Bright Start operations and customer service efforts will continue. Although some temporary disruptions and delays may occur, it is our goal to continue to provide the high level of customer support you’ve come to rely on.

Key Things to Know About Your Account

  • We are open to serve you.
  • Sign up for online access:
    • Online access provides the most effective and efficient processing of transactions should COVID-19 impact mail delivery and servicing.
    • Online access allows you to view and transact on your account online 24/7.
  • To activate online access:
    • Find the Log In option in the upper right-hand corner of this page and select the Account Owner option.
    • Choose Sign Up for Online Access and follow the easy online steps.
    • Important reminder: Once in your account, sign up for E-Statements and E-Delivery to avoid mail delays.
  • Our Customer Care Center remains open for your questions:
    • We stand ready to serve. Should you experience a longer wait time we apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding.
    • Please note some national carriers have and may experience intermittent delays.
  • How to reach us:
    • Choose Contact Us in the upper right-hand corner and select the contact method most convenient for you.
  • Watch out for scams:
    • Beware of potential scams, including suspicious emails or text messages.
    • Bright Start will never ask you for your log in credentials in an email or text message.
    • If you receive a suspicious email or text message, don’t respond to or click on any links/attachments.
  • For more details about COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Refunds from Eligible Educational Institutions

If you receive a refund from an Eligible Educational Institution for Qualified Higher Education Expenses that were paid from money withdrawn from your Account, you can:
  1. Pay for Other Qualified Higher Education Expenses – you can use the funds to pay other Qualified Higher Education Expenses incurred by that Beneficiary in the same calendar year.
  2. Recontribute Refunded Amounts to a 529 Account – if a student receives a refund of Qualified Higher Education Expenses that were treated as paid by a 529 distribution, the student can recontribute these amounts into any 529 account for which they are the beneficiary within 60 days after the date of the refund. The amount recontributed cannot exceed the amount of the refund.
    • EXTENSION OF TIME – for refunds made on or after February 1, 2020 and prior to May 16, 2020 the IRS has extended the time to recontribute funds to the greater of 60 days or July 15, 2020.
You should consult with your financial, tax or other advisor regarding your individual situation.

Market Volatility

Beyond its impact on daily work and public events, COVID-19 has also contributed to significant market volatility. During times like these, it is important to remain calm. Market volatility understandably has some investors concerned. Participants should be aware of the impact of timing the market. In positive and negative markets, asset allocation and diversification are key. Individual investors cannot control the many influences on the market, especially how the market will react to events any day or week. Individuals should focus on factors they can control, especially their short-and long-term needs, asset diversification, willingness to be open to opportunities, and risk tolerance. This situation is evolving and we will provide future updates as conditions change.