Gov. Mapp: ‘We Have Made GERS Solvency A Priority’ Since Taking Office in 2015
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Over the last month the Virgin Islands government has worked to eliminate the retirement backlog for former government employees waiting for their pensions, Government House said.
This includes recent payments totaling $1,182,064 for 96 retirees, Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens said on Wednesday.
The Mapp-Potter administration said it “has made government retirees and GERS solvency a priority.” In 2015, just three months after assuming office, Governor Kenneth Mapp worked with GERS to release annuities for hundreds of retirees – some of whom had been waiting months or even years for their pensions.
Commissioner Collens said the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) must act quickly to resolve what it calls “other reasons” for delaying benefits for retirees now that the Virgin Islands Government has fully addressed the retirement backlog by paying missing employer contributions for individuals categorized by GERS as “new retirees.”
“We will continue to work collaboratively with GERS to resolve any missing employer contributions that are communicated by GERS in a timely manner to the central government,” Commissioner Collens said. “In fact, we learned from GERS that oftentimes they identify other reasons, unrelated to missing employer contributions, which cause delayed benefit payments to retirees. Until those ‘other reasons’ are resolved by GERS, it has been GERS’s policy not to process benefit payments. We urge GERS to resolve whatever issues they may have to immediately begin paying what is due to these retirees.”
Commissioner Collens said he is encouraging GERS to work with retirees to clearly communicate and resolve any problems identified by GERS which may contribute to delayed retirement payments.
The Government’s concerns regarding GERS are outlined in a post-hearing brief filed with the Federal District Court last Friday. At a recent hearing, the Honorable Judge Curtis Gomez ordered briefs to be filed by both parties.
“We would like to thank Judge Gomez for his diligence throughout this entire process,” Collens said. “He has acted in the best interest of the retirees.”
Governor Mapp has proposed numerous reforms that would extend the solvency of GERS. Pending legislation directs more than $380 million to GERS over the next 10 years from revenues the government expects from the restart of refining operations at the Limetree Bay facility on St. Croix’s south shore.
Additionally, Governor Mapp said that he included provisions in the FY 2019 budget to include an infusion of millions of dollars more into the retirement system over the next several years by increasing the government’s contribution to GERS, as well as expanding the contribution of members whose salaries are higher than $65,000 per year.