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ASRS Director Paul Matson Message from Director Paul Matson

AUGUST 2020 |  Like many of you and much of society as a whole, the Arizona State Retirement System has made a number of adjustments over the past several months as we work to ensure we are fully operational in all core services for our members. With a dedicated staff largely working remotely, I am pleased to assure you that we have had no significant disruptions in the services you rely on. Benefit payments to our retired and disabled members are made on time every time and we have been meeting or our exceeding our standards for timely answering calls, emails and questions from our members at pre-pandemic service levels.

As our offices in Phoenix and Tucson remain closed to visitors other than by exception, we have significantly increased our online pension and health insurance learning opportunities. We are continuing to monitor a number of health related factors during this pandemic to determine when we can safely resume in-person meetings and appointments.

SERVICE UPDATES: For active employees, the ASRS continues to process all retirement applications, forfeitures and similar service requests and expects to continue doing so without interruption.

For retired and disabled members, benefit payments are being processed and made regularly, without any interruption. Our retiree group health insurance programs are uninterrupted.

For our employer partners, we continue to process new member applications, contributions processing and all other core services that you rely upon to serve your employees. 

INVESTMENTS: The investment portfolio continues to be professionally and actively managed during these volatile periods with continued focus on liquidity, opportunity, and rebalancing. We specifically designed the portfolio to have significant liquidity in situations like this to ensure all current and future payment obligations are met uninterrupted.  

IN CONCLUSION: I want our actions and efforts to enable you to focus on other, more pressing aspects of your life, knowing that your ASRS membership and benefits will continue uninterrupted. 

Our organizations stands ready to be of service. Please use our website to find answers to most of your questions, log into your myASRS account to send us a Secure Message, or call to speak with a Benefits Advisor from our Member Advisory Center.

Thank you to all our members, and please be sure to stay safe and healthy.

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APRIL 3, 2020 | In this time of uncertainty, I wanted to take a moment to send you this second member-wide communication to let you know that in spite of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic and capital market situation, and the recent Executive Order from Governor Ducey to ensure your safety, the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) is still fully operational in all core services, including making all pension, disability, and health insurance payments. 

For retirees, beneficiaries, and long term disability recipients, your benefit payments are not impacted and you can expect your monthly benefits to continue to be paid on time every month.

SERVICE UPDATES: For active employees, the ASRS continues to process all retirement applications, forfeitures, and similar service requests and expects to continue doing so throughout this uniquely stressful period. The only services we are not providing at this time are in-person individual and group meetings. Rather than risk your health, that of our community and employees, we have migrated all meetings to telephonic or web-based platforms. As such, should the need arise, please use our website to find answers to most of your questions, log into your myASRS account to send us a Secure Message, or call to speak with a Benefits Advisor from our Member Advisory Center.

It should be noted that state agencies, including the ASRS, have been subject to periodic call center outages over the past several days due to significantly increased call volumes which had exceeded the state’s capacity for in-bound calls. This situation appears to have been resolved, and we will keep you advised via our website should that change. Our organization will continue to be highly functional and service-oriented even as the majority of our staff are now remote-based and our services primarily telephonic or web-based.

INVESTMENTS: The investment portfolio continues to be professionally and actively managed during these volatile periods with particular focus on liquidity, opportunity, and rebalancing. We specifically designed the portfolio to have significant liquidity, and numerous liquidity options, to enable us to be nimble during periods like this.

IN CONCLUSION: I want our actions and efforts to enable you to focus on other, more pressing aspects of your life, knowing that your ASRS membership and benefits will continue uninterrupted. Should you need assistance, we are still here for you.

LEARN MORE: To learn more about ASRS' response to the current situation, visit ASRS Service Updates in Response to COVID-19. We encourage you to bookmark this page and check back frequently as it is continually updated with the latest developments that impact the ASRS.
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MARCH 20, 2020 | With the significant economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic, I want to personally provide you with the following information regarding the services the ASRS will be providing at this time. In summary - I do not expect any significant service disruption. 

SERVICE UPDATES:

    • Member Services remain operational for all significant services including pension payments, contribution collections, processing of new retirement requests, responding to member questions & more.
    • Pension Payments will be paid on time and not interrupted.
    • Health Insurance payments & coverage will continue and health insurance premium payments will be paid on time and not interrupted.
    • Long Term Disability payments will be paid on time and not be interrupted.
    • Investment Management staff and I have been managing the portfolio on a continuous basis. The portfolio has the required liquidity to ensure the continued timely payment of pensions, health insurance premiums, and disability payments to our members, as well as payments to our vendors, and salaries of our staff. Modest investment repositioning, redirection of investment income and modifications to certain investment strategies and investments have also occurred. 

STATUS OF OPERATIONS: At this time, portions of ASRS staff have begun telecommuting in order to protect the health of our members, community and employees. Technologies implemented over the past several years have allowed for our staff to quickly adapt to serving our members as a remote workforce.

MEETINGS:

    • Member Education: Until further notice, all member education meetings have been moved to electronic formats.
    • Appointments: At this time the ASRS can only accommodate walk-in appointments on an exception basis. We request members log into their myASRS account & send us a secure message, or visit our website for information about your ASRS-related questions. 
    • Public Meetings: Until further notice, Board & Committee meetings will be teleconferenced, with members able to call in. 

IN CONCLUSION: The ASRS has an active and tested continuity of operations plan in place which should enable us to provide the service levels our members have come to expect with limited, if any, degradation of service. We commit to keep you apprised of any additional ASRS-relevant information during this unprecedented time on the COVID-19 Response page of the ASRS website.

My colleagues and I hope that our efforts will enable you to focus on other, more pressing, aspects of your life at this time. The ASRS continues to be here for you.

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Board & Committee Meetings

April 6, 2020 | Please note that due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic and safe distancing guidelines, all future ASRS Board and Board Committee meetings will be conducted telephonically rather than in-person. Members of the public will have call-in access to these meetings.

For further information, including Meeting Schedules and Agendas, visit the Board & Committee Meetings page. Thank you for helping us protect you and our community.

Retirees with Health Insurance through UnitedHealthcare

Visit UnitedHealthcare's Covid-19 Update webpage for the most updated information as UHC expands it's access to care, support and resources.

UnitedHealthcare

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Government COVID-19 Resources

We encourage you to visit the following government resources for the most up-to-date news related to COVID-19’s impact in our area. As the situation here at the ASRS changes, we will continue to keep you updated via our website.

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Member Service Updates

July 1, 2020 | Document Drop-Off

ASRS office closed to in-person appointments but open for document drop-off

April 3, 2020 | Submitting Documents & Member Service Updates

March 18, 2020 | Member Walk-In Appointments

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March 18, 2020 | Member Education 

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Employer Service Updates

April 3, 2020 | As we mentioned in our last update, all employer trainings have been migrated to web-based platforms. The annual Employer Basics training is now available in a six-part pre-recorded webinar format, available under "Employer: Videos" on the ASRS website. The accompanying Employer Basics handbook is also available for download. 

Please visit the Employer dashboard on the ASRS website to find answers to most of your questions, log into the secure employer portal to send us a Secure Message, or call to speak with your Employer Liaison in our Employer Relations division.

March 24, 2020 | Employer services remain operational for all significant services. Employer educational meetings have been canceled until further notice. 

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ASRS Investment Outlook

March 20, 2020 | The ongoing pandemic is having dramatic effects on society as a whole.  The resulting slowdown in business activity will result in significantly lower corporate profitability, higher governmental expenditures, and modified monetary policies.  Much of this already reflected in financial markets with stock prices significantly lower across global markets.  

The Arizona State Retirement System has a highly diversified portfolio across stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets which is robust for the long run, liquid when capital markets are in distress, and designed to withstand shocks such as what we are now experiencing.  

Prior to recent events, the ASRS was modestly underweight stocks and held less than 40% of its portfolio in listed equities.  We continue to actively monitoring markets and tactically reposition our portfolio each day as markets evolve. We are also positioned to opportunistically purchase assets at substantial discounts in dislocated markets.  

The ASRS portfolio has multiple sources to provide liquidity and as such will have no difficulty funding benefit payments to our members, and fulfilling business obligations to our partners.  As with prior crises, markets and the economy will in time recover.  The ASRS will participate in that recovery and is positioning itself to enhance returns through opportunistic and tactical portfolio strategies.