Uptick in Kansas retirement applications puts strain on state retirement system; will Kansans get their benefits?

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A surge in retirements is putting a strain on Kansas’ retirement system. State retirement officials are unsure of what this will mean for state retirement plan members in the upcoming months.  

The executive director of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS), Alan Conroy, spoke with state leaders in the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments, and Benefits on Wednesday. Conroy gave an update on how the state’s retirement system has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.  

The state saw a 28.5% increase in retirements in the fall compared to last year, and a nearly 100% increase in the number of withdrawal payments. The number of withdrawal payments increased to 3,517 in Sept. and Oct. 2020.  

“We’re in a good position to continue to provide those benefits that have been earned by public servants.” said Conroy, optimistic about the department’s current financial outlook. “I think we’ll just have to see whether this upturn in retirements, that happened in September and October, whether or not that will continue on.” 

The department has more than 156,000 active members, ranging from 17 to 92. Teachers and government workers receive a pension every year after they retire.  

The department’s seen the most significant uptick in new retirees from school members, which increased by nearly 48% during the fall.  

According to KPERS, some of the reasons for the increased amount of applicants include  members’ reluctance to physically return to the workplace or continue virtual employment, and lack of actual work.  

Some of the challenges have also been presented to KPERS staff, as they continue to  navigate remote work. The department was forced to close offices on November 23, after a large increase in Coronavirus infections this fall.  

“It’s a less than ideal situation, but we have the infrastructure and internal policies in place to continue working from home,” Conroy said.  

Conroy said his staff will continue to complete their duties to meet the needs of members and employers. 

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