LAGERS has been monitoring the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in an effort to ensure we are proactively protecting the health and safety of our members and staff, and to ensure that our normal business operations and services to our members and retirees continue uninterrupted.
LAGERS has assembled a response team to ensure we are taking all necessary and responsible steps in ensuring the continued effective operation of your retirement system and remains committed to keeping our stakeholders informed of any forthcoming developments.
It is times like these when we are especially reminded of the importance of the work our members do. Missouri LAGERS represents nearly 70,000 working and retired local government employees including local health department workers, other public health and long-term care providers, emergency responders, as well as countless other local government workers from public administrators all the way down to local sanitation workers– these are the men and women on the front lines, working to ensure that every community in our state is a safe, healthy, and desirable place to live.
As our members continue their important work in serving their communities, LAGERS remains resolved in ensuring that the COVID-19 virus causes little to no disruption in our services, and our members and retirees should feel confident that their LAGERS retirement system remains strong and secure.
Robert L. Wilson, CEBS | Executive Director
LAGERS has plans in place to ensure the continuation of services during events like this. No interruptions are anticipated to member benefit payments, collection of contributions, or any other business functions.
LAGERS’ Investment Team has maintained ongoing communication with our asset managers to ensure the security and long-term focus of the LAGERS’ portfolio, and our team remains diligent in process and in allocation. LAGERS’ investment team has built a diversified portfolio that is like a strong house, able to withstand all types of weather. LAGERS remains a long-term investor and will continue to monitor both positive and negative impacts to LAGERS’ portfolio.
To ensure we are limiting the disruption in services to our members, LAGERS is offering alternative virtual events for all scheduled Pre-Retirement Seminars. Please click here for more information on all of LAGERS’ upcoming virtual events. Anyone may call our office to schedule an online or phone conference meetings in lieu of an in-person meeting.
As the COVD-19 crisis continues to unfold, LAGERS wants to make sure our members and retirees are getting their information from reliable sources and guard against scams and hoaxes. Below are a number of resources you may find helpful.
The CARES Act was recently passed by Congress to provide financial relief to working and retired Americans. While LAGERS does not expect any direct impact from this Act to your LAGERS benefits, there are several provisions that may impact you. The CARES Act relaxes certain rules regarding withdrawals from retirement plans. The following FAQ from the Senate Finance Committee highlights the major changes to retirement account withdrawal and taxation rules.
The CARES Act will also be providing a relief payment to many working and retired Americans. We encourage members to be aware of what needs to be done to qualify for a rebate. Check the IRS website for more details.
Social Security and Fraud Protection
At this time, the Social Security Administration does not anticipate any impact on Social Security benefits. Our members and retirees should be aware of scams attempting to trick people into giving out personal information. The Social Security Administration asks: “If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, or another government agency offering COVID-19 related grants or economic impact payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond.” These are scams.
For more information, please visit the Social Security Administration website.
Your Health and Safety
Health and Safety Your health and safety are important to us. For the most up to date statistics on the outbreak as well as information about the symptoms of COVID-19, prevention tips, and what to do if you think you have contracted the Virus, we encourage you to utilize one of the following resources:
Direct Deposit of Your Benefit Payments
While at this time, there have been no disruptions to USPS services, it is possible that at some point, as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, there may be disruptions to the postal service beyond LAGERS’ control that could impact the timeliness of your benefit for retirees and beneficiaries receiving their LAGERS benefits in the form of a paper check.
To avoid any potential delay to your benefit, LAGERS is encouraging all retirees and beneficiaries to sign up for a direct deposit of their benefit.
**Please note, your financial institution will need to sign this form. You should be able to do this through the drive-through window of your bank. You do NOT need to physically go inside!
For questions about completing this form, please call: 1-800-447-4334 Ext 6368
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m planning on retiring in a few months, will I be able to retire?
Yes, LAGERS members can continue submitting their retirement applications as normal. At this time, we do not anticipate any delays with processing retirement applications.
Is my retirement benefit safe in LAGERS?
While the COVID-19 crisis is having far-reaching impacts on financial markets and individual retirement accounts, our retirees will experience NO IMPACT to their LAGERS benefit. All benefits will be paid on time and the amount of your benefit does not change with the markets. Defined Benefit plans, like LAGERS, are designed for the long-term. LAGERS fully expects the system to weather this storm and will remain solvent and strong in the long-term. Check out our blog on the Three Things Every Retiree Should Know about Their Benefit Right Now.
I am taking a leave of absence from my employer without pay. How will this impact my LAGERS benefit?
If you take an unpaid leave of absence during the COVID-19 outbreak, your employer will report you to LAGERS as on leave of absence but will not report any wages. While you will not receive service credit for any month you are reported on unpaid leave, the zero wages reported during an unpaid leave of absence will not be included in your Final Average Salary calculation. You will still be considered an active member of the system while on an unpaid leave of absence, and your benefit accrual will pick back up when you return to work and are again receiving wage payments.
I am taking a paid leave of absence from my employer. How will this impact my LAGERS’ benefit?
You will continue to receive service credit towards your LAGERS benefit during a paid leave of absence and should be reported as normal to LAGERS. Paid leave would be vacation, sick, or donated leave you are receiving as if you are working your regular hours, receiving your regular pay. If you are using leave granted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and receiving 2/3 pay, you will continue to receive service credit towards your LAGERS benefit, and your employer will report the actual wages paid to you.
What will happen to LAGERS if our economy slips into a recession?
LAGERS’ members’ benefits are secure. LAGERS’ investment allocation has been constructed to endure a full market cycle, the highs and the lows. Only a portion of LAGERS’ investments are in the stock market. The portfolio is well-diversified across a broad range of investment types that provide protection when the stock market declines. As a large, institutional investor, LAGERS also has access to investment types not available to individuals that further help insulate the portfolio. While LAGERS’ investments have experienced losses since the beginning of 2020, we are confident that our approach will endure the future, and our members’ benefits will remain secure into the future.
I have already applied for retirement, but need to delay my retirement because my employer needs me to continue working. What do I do?
If you have not yet received your first retirement payment, you can delay your effective date of retirement should you need to remain employed for the duration of the crisis. Please call the LAGERS office as soon as possible if you need to delay your retirement date. If you have already received your first payment, please contact the LAGERS office.
I am already retired, but am considering returning to work temporarily to fulfill a public workforce need during the COVID-19 outbreak. How will this affect my benefit?
A retiree who is returning to LAGERS service temporarily in response to the COVID – 19 outbreak would not generally be considered to be working in a LAGERS-eligible position. If a retiree is returning to work in a non-LAGERS eligible position, their current benefit would not be impacted and they would also not be eligible to accrue any additional benefit during their temporary service.
*Please note that if a retiree returns to work in a permanent position that would regularly exceed the annual hours for LAGERS eligibility at their employer, normal return to work provisions would apply. Insert link to that page. Retirees or employers with questions about eligibility should call our office.
If a first responder dies of COVID-19, would this be considered a duty-death?
There is currently no statute or rule that presumptively establishes COVID-19-related deaths of first responders to be considered duty-related. If a LAGERS-covered employee dies as a result of COVID-19, we will evaluate each death on a case by case basis to determine if it is duty-related based on the documentation submitted.