State Treasurer says state retirement fund remains strong amid shaky market

Updated: Mar. 20, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell is confident the state’s retirement system will continue to be able to meet its obligation to retirees, despite the economic downturn.

Folwell talked with WBTV on Thursday afternoon to provide updates on how the multi-billion-dollar state pension fund—which funds retirement benefits for employees of state government, local government and teachers—and the state health were faring during the economic turmoil.

According to Folwell, the pension fund’s value had dropped roughly ten percent compared to the 25 percent downturn the market had seen.

One percentage point is equal to roughly $1 billion, Folwell said.

Despite that, the Treasurer said, the fund had about $10 billion in cash on hand, which his agency was using to acquire more investments to take advantage of the lower rates.

Folwell attributed the state’s strong position to a conservative investment strategy.

“Chief Investment Officer Magazine just did an article last week that said while other pension plans crumble, North Carolina shines,” Folwell said. “With everything that’s going on in our society right now—the angst and anxiety—the last thing I want any public servant leaving home worried about is the safety of the health plan and the safety of the pension plan.”

Retirement checks for this month are scheduled to go out next week as planned, Folwell said.

Separately, the State Health Plan, which is overseen by the Treasurer, has taken steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the steps the plan has taken, Folwell said, are:

  • Access to more virtual doctor visits
  • Eliminating many pre-authorizations typically required to see a specialist
  • Eliminated all co-pays and deductibles associated with COVID-19 testing
  • Lifted the cap on the amount of tablets that can be filled at one time from 30-days to 90-days
  • Eliminated CVS home delivery charge

Overall, Folwell said, employees and retirees should feel confident that both plans are financially stable enough to weather the turbulent market.

“We’re not seeing a spike in demand,” he said. “Obviously, we’re seeing a spike in anxiety and frustration with everything that’s going on.”Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.