NU Online News Service, June 19, 6:06 p.m. – Many large public and private employers have strengthened employee assistance programs and commuter benefits in the past 12 months in spite of the soft economy, according to a survey on work-life benefits by Fisher Vista, Capitola, Calif.

The Alliance of Work Life Professionals, Alexandria, Va., which sponsored the survey, says 14% of the 2,000 work-life and employee benefits executives polled reported their organizations had started new EAP programs or increased spending on existing EAP programs.

Another 14% said their organizations had started or increased spending on commuter programs.

Twenty-one percent of the respondents who reported increases in EAP program spending and 11% who reported increases in commuter program spending said the budget changes were due in part to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Employers also put more emphasis on wellness and elder care referral programs.

Fourteen percent of the respondents reported their organizations had started or increased spending on wellness programs, and 10% said their organizations had beefed up elder care referral programs.

The soft economy did the most damage to concierge services. Eighteen percent of the survey participants said their organizations had dropped concierge services, and 50% said the move was a cost-cutting measure.