For Immediate Release
March 18, 2020
For More Information Contact:
Public School Employees' Retirement System
Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System Operating Remotely During Pandemic
HARRISBURG – Early emergency planning positioned the Public School Employees' Retirement System to remain operational when the state and federal governments ordered large-scale closures this week amid the COVD-19 pandemic.
On March 2, PSERS became one of the first public pension funds in the nation to curtail international and domestic business travel. The ban forbade the System's investment professionals from attending business meetings in locations where coronavirus cases were confirmed and spreading. It also prevented the System's consultants and managers, who reside or do business in those same regions, from visiting PSERS' headquarters.
On March 3, PSERS began preparing computer systems and 100 extra laptops for deployment as part of its Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). Those preparations allowed nearly 200 of PSERS investment, financial, benefits and management staff to begin working remotely when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered executive branch agencies to close on March 16.
"I could not be prouder of the teamwork PSERS management and unionized employees are showing in these challenging times," Executive Director Glen Grell said after a daily phone briefing among management staff. "Weeks of early planning has allowed our employees to remain safe and keep the System open for the benefit of our members, Pennsylvania's dedicated public school employees.
"Through these preparations, PSERS' investment professionals are able to remotely manage trades and assets," Mr. Grell continued. "Our finance division is processing members' pension and healthcare benefits, and our member services staff are using email to actively respond to our members' questions and needs."
Chief Financial Officer Brian Carl announced that daily benefits payments are being issued and the larger end-of-the-month member benefit checks will be sent as normal on March 31 st. PSERS' April benefits payment schedule also remains on track to be processed remotely if needed.
PSERS Deputy Executive Director and Director of Defined Contribution Investments Jennifer Mills commented, "We have been in daily contact with Voya, PSERS Third Party Administrator for the new PSERS Defined Contribution (DC) Plan. Together we are monitoring PSERS DC investments options and increasing communication with our members during this period of volatility in the investment markets.
PSERS Investment Office, under the direction of Chief Investment Officer Jim Grossman, is closely monitoring and managing the ever-changing market conditions related to the System's diversified asset portfolio. The portfolio is structured to earn investment gains in good economic times and manage investment losses and risk while maintaining enough cash to cover liquidity needs.
For additional information, please visit PSERS' website and social media pages to view Mr. Grell's video messages to retirees and active members, and Mr. Grossman's investment message. You can also read these news stories about PSERS' operations during the COVID-19 pandemic: Pennlive.com, Wall Street Journal, Pensions&Investments.
Remember, stay calm, have patience, and follow PA Department of Health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
About the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System
PSERS, founded in 1917, began operations in 1919 to oversee a statewide defined benefit pension plan for public school employees. PSERS' role expanded upon the passage of Act 5 of 2017 to include oversight of two new hybrid options consisting of defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) components and a stand-alone DC plan. As of December 31, 2019, PSERS had net assets of approximately $60.5 billion and a membership of about 256,000 active and 237,000 retired school employees.