New York City's Wall Street was calm on April 25, 2020.

New York City's Wall Street was calm on April 25, 2020. Star Max via AP

Feds Sticking With Retirement Investments, More Calls for Hazard Pay

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Officials with the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program said that despite the tumult in the stock markets due to the coronavirus outbreak, federal employees have largely followed the Thrift Savings Plan’s mantra of “stick to your plan.”

At a meeting of the board that administers the TSP Monday, TSP Chief Financial Officer Sean McCaffrey said that March marked an “all time high” for interfund transfers among the program’s participants, but even with that high water mark, fully 93% of participants did not move their money around.

McCaffrey said that many of the transfers seen by the agency in April were of participants moving money back out of safe havens like the G Fund, which is made up of government securities, and back into stock indexes.

“Thus far in April, the volume [of transfers] has fallen significantly,” he said. “And what we’ve seen is that the direction has also changed, from into the G Fund to out of the G Fund, although at a lower rate than the money had flown into the G Fund previously.”

TSP officials said that the agency and its contractors have moved the vast majority of their workforces to a telework posture, and thanks to some recent IT investments, there has been no slowdown or interruption in service. And while the agency already has temporarily halted required minimum distributions for this year as a result of the coronavirus, officials continue to look at whether other provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act require changes at the TSP.

As congressional leaders continue to negotiate what to include in the next round of legislation aimed at responding to the coronavirus pandemic, a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers continued the push to authorize hazard pay for federal workers and other essential employees in the private sector who are still required to commute to work.

In a letter to leadership, a group of 67 lawmakers, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., urged inclusion of a so-called workers bill of rights in the next coronavirus stimulus bill, which also includes a requirement that employers provide adequate personal protective equipment, expands paid leave benefits and offers additional protections for whistleblowers and unionized workforces.

“During this pandemic, essential workers should also be paid robust premium pay to recognize the critical contribution they are making to our health and our economy,” the lawmakers wrote. “Premium pay should provide meaningful compensation for essential work, be higher for the lowest-wage workers, and not count towards workers’ eligibility for means-tested programs. It must be retroactive to the start of the pandemic, and not used to lower the regular rate of pay for any employee.”