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COVID-19 Impact on Pension Board Operations

COVID-19 Impact on Pension Board Operations

By IPPFA General Counsel Richard Reimer and IPPFA Deputy Counsel Brian LaBardi

“The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt dramatically affect pension boards from an economic standpoint. Besides the obvious long-term economic impact, the current environment will have other short-term impact on pension board operations.

Conducting Quarterly or Special Board Meetings
On April 1, 2020, Governor Pritzker entered Executive Order 2020-18 continuing the suspension of certain portions of the Open Meetings Act until April 30, 2020. The prior Executive Order 2020-07 entered March 16th, initially impacting meeting requirements, had been set to expire April 7th.

As pertains to meetings of public bodies, it prohibits “public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household” and further prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people unless exempted by the order. The Order also suspends portions of the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) to make it easier for public bodies to meet remotely. The source of this authority as applied to non-State agencies is unclear.

While remote participation in a public meeting is provided under limited circumstances in the OMA, the Statute as written requires the physical attendance of a quorum (3 members in the case of a pension board). The Governor’s Order waives the physical attendance requirement of the OMA in addition to the qualifying events necessary for phone participation by a trustee. If a meeting is held pursuant to the terms of the Order, the public body may provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to the meetings to allow for public participation. At the time of this writing, exemptions provided by the Executive Order expire on April 30, 2020.

The Attorney General’s Office has also issued a guide to which public bodies can refer. What the Executive Order did not do was suspend the requirement meetings be held in locations open and accessible to the public nor did it suspend the requirement the public be allowed to comment. This would seem to suggest that, while physical attendance by the trustees may be waived, there must still be a way for the public to participate even by phone in a location that is convenient and open to the public. At a minimum, the Attorney General suggests providing the conference call number and login information on the notice of the meeting thereby allowing for public participation via phone. In addition to providing the call-in information, the Public Access counselor also suggests allowing the public to comment in advance by email or voicemail. Any comments received in that manner would be read into the record at the meeting.

Another frequent question given the current climate involves “emergency” as opposed to “special” meetings under the OMA. There is no case law or statutory definition of what constitutes an “emergency” under the OMA. However, as noted in one of our past newsletters, in prior opinions, the PAC has adopted the dictionary definition of emergency as, “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.” Prior PAC decisions focused on “unanticipated circumstances” as the lynchpin for whether a meeting was an emergency. Depending on the action the Board is contemplating, a meeting may be able to meet this definition. However, the safer route would still be to call a “special” meeting with 48 hours’ notice. Please note, the posting requirements of the OMA were not modified by the Governor’s Executive Order. A special meeting must be posted at least 48 hours’ in advance at both the principal office and location of the meeting. Notice for an emergency meeting must be given as soon as practicable, but in any event prior to the holding of such meeting, and to any news medium which has filed an annual request for notice.

The situation remains very fluid and seems to change on a day to day basis. It is certainly possible additional executive orders will be issued impacting pension board meetings. For the time being, as noted above, the current order will expire April 30, 2020.

Impact on Disability and Annual Examinations
In addition to complications in conducting quarterly or special meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic will also have a dramatic impact on disability pension applications pending before pension boards. Many pension boards are facing a delay in obtaining treating physicians medical records. Custodians for medical records are either closed or operating on minimum staffing levels. The same is true for outside medical record storage companies. This has the effect of delaying the scheduling of independent medical examinations inasmuch as those are not set until all medical records from treating and examining physicians are obtained.

Most vendors providing independent medical examination services have suspended scheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians are either wary of any patient contact or have been tied up rendering medical care and treatment to patients. In some cases, these physicians will perform a “medical records review”, but the Board should do so sparingly, and only in cases where an actual medical examination is not necessary.

The same is true for required annual examinations of police officers and firefighters receiving disability benefits under the age of 50. Those exams can be rescheduled or postponed until such time as the physician feels safe to conduct annual exams.

Further updates will be provided as additional developments warrant.”

If you would like to download the article, please click here.

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How COVID-19 will impact retirement security from all angles
Source: Center for Retirement Research

During this unprecedented time, the CRR is on the case. Consistent with our mission, we are exploring how COVID-19 will impact retirement security from all angles. Our current resources are below.

Check back regularly for updates or sign up for our email list.

Full Article

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Illinois Governor Issues Executive Order Temporarily Relaxing Portions of the Open Meetings Act; Attorney General Offers Guidance
Source: Lexology

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has issued Executive Order 2020-07, which suspends the requirement of the Open Meetings Act that members of a public body be physically present at meetings of the public body, and the limitations of the Open Meetings Act as to when members of a public body may participate in meetings of the public body remotely.

The Executive Order, issued pursuant to the authority granted the Governor under Section 7 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, also encourages public bodies to postpone consideration of public business when possible, and encourages them to provide, video, audio and/or telephonic access to meetings to ensure members of the public may monitor the meeting, and to update the public bodies’ web sites and social media feeds to keep the public fully apprised of modifications to their meeting schedules or the format of meetings.

Full Article

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Pension Question for Police Officers Returning to Work Part-Time
Source: IPPFA and Lauterbach & Amen, LLP

Pension Question for Police Officers Returning to Work Part-Time

A police department has part-time hourly officers who are not in the Article 3 Fund, and the department may hire back some of their own retirees temporarily because of staff shortages due to COVID-19. When asked if this would impact the officers’ pensions, our opinion is that they can be hired into a position not covered by Article 3. However, another question posed is will there be tax ramifications of going back to work for the same town before the age of 59.5?

Answers:

  • If the member is being rehired into a police officer role, they must (re)join the Article 3 Fund and their retirement benefit must be suspended.
  • If the member is being rehired into a non-police officer role, they can continue to collect their retirement pension and if they are unter the age of 59.5, their 2020 1099R will reflect a “1” in Box 7.
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First responders, health care workers can be tested for coronavirus at Joliet, Northlake Walmart sites
Source: Chicago Tribune

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday set up drive-thru coronavirus testing sites for first responders and health care workers at Walmart parking lots in Joliet and Northlake.

Walmart spokesman Del Sloneker said the testing is critical for the essential workers on the front lines of the outbreak.

“We are extremely grateful to every doctor, nurse, pharmacist, EMT and other health and emergency professional who is selflessly supporting the response,” he said.

Full Article

 

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Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Fund Investment Board is now accepting resumes and RFP’s
Source: POPIF

The Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Fund Investment Board is now accepting resumes and RFP’s for the following positions:

  • Executive Director
  • General Legal Counsel
  • Administrative Services

Please visit this link https://bit.ly/2vXYd8R for the full job description and details on RFP’s.

If you are unable to access these documents please send an email to ILPOPIF@gmail.com referring to the job description or RFP you are interested in and the document will be sent to you directly.

 

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Statement from IPPFA President James McNamee
Source: IPPFA

Statement from IPPFA President James McNamee:

The IPPFA will be suspending all in-person training, including conferences and seminars, through June. After which, we will review the situation to see when we can resume in-person events.

If you were registered for any of our events that have been suspended, please be aware that refunds will be processed as soon as possible.

We thank you in advance for your patience.

Executive Order in Response to COVID-19
Issued by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on March 16, 2020

To view this executive order in full, please click here.

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A Meeting of the Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund – March 13, 2020
Source: POPIF

NOTICE: A MEETING OF THE POLICE OFFICERS’ PENSION INVESTMENT FUND

To be held on Wednesday, March 13, 2020 at  10:00am.

You can view the agenda by clicking here.

Rock Island Police Department
1212 5th Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

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A Meeting of the Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund
Source: POPIF

NOTICE: A MEETING OF THE POLICE OFFICERS’ PENSION INVESTMENT FUND

To be held on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at  10:00am.

You can view the agenda by clicking here.

Aurora Police Department
Community Room
1200 E. Indian Trail Road
Aurora, IL 60504

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A Meeting of the Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund
Source: POPIF

NOTICE: A MEETING OF THE POLICE OFFICERS’ PENSION INVESTMENT FUND

To be held on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 9:30am.

You can view the agenda by clicking here.

Peoria Police Department
Training Room
600 SW Adams St.
Peoria, IL 61602

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