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TSP Participants Get Busy Signal on Help Line

Snowstorm, high call volumes cause technical difficulties.

Federal employees have had a tough time during the past week getting through to Thrift Savings Plan customer service representatives.

Snowstorm Octavia – which brought brutal cold and precipitation to the East Coast last week – happened to hit at the same time the TSP experiences its highest call volumes every year. Clintwood, Virginia, in the southwestern part of the commonwealth, is home to a TSP call center; the combination of inclement weather and an influx of calls sparked technical difficulties, according to the agency that manages the TSP. Federal workers who called in experienced busy signals or were disconnected.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and frustrations that many of our participants are experiencing,” said Mark Walther, chief operating officer at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, during the monthly board meeting on Monday. “We are certainly working this issue as a top priority.”

The board gets the highest volume of phone calls to its ThriftLine the Tuesday after the Presidents’ Day holiday each year due to the annual TSP statement mailings sent out in January and subsequent tax-related questions from participants. Walther said the board wasn’t sure right now how many people were affected but received “a number of comments” from TSP participants about the problem.

In other TSP news, the total plan balance dropped about $3 million between December and January to $436 billion, according to board officials. Despite that, participation among those enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System rose to an all-time high of 88 percent last month.

“That’s really good news,” said Tom Emswiler, director of participant operations and policy at the TSP.

The Roth option continued to grow in popularity with 494,048 accounts and a balance of $2.2 billion in January. The number of loans that TSP participants took out of their accounts also was down about 20 percent in January from December, which Emswiler attributed to people’s tendency to “take out loans year end for Christmas gifts and things like that.”

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