Over the years, AARP VI has worked to educate VI Government retirees about the Government Employees’ Retirement System’s (GERS) condition. That work involved trying to motivate retirees to advocate that the VI government take immediate steps to help the system remain solvent.
To AARP’s great satisfaction, two groups have recently formed – one on St. Thomas known as Government Retirees United For Fairness (GRUFF) and one on St. Croix known as the St. Croix Government Retirees (SCGR). Both are offering well thought-out suggestions to the government that are intended to help end the retirement system’s further deterioration.
The St. Croix group, St. Croix Government Retirees or (SCGR), recently developed a three point list that they plan to present to the Legislature. They expect, if adopted, it will be a means of helping both GERS and its membership. The three points include:
Utilizing the remainder of the retroactive money that is owed to retirees for payment of delinquent income and property taxes. No money would be exchanged, but this would represent an accounting function that would enable seniors, who are rightfully owed a significant amount of retroactive money, to clear the books and become current with their outstanding income or property taxes.
This suggested point will also lower the VI Government’s debt by allowing retroactive salary payments to be used as payments.
Suspending annuity payments that are being paid to incarcerated people. The SCGR feels that the government is already paying for room and board, health care and all other needs while these individuals are in prison and that the annuity payments should not be accrued for or paid to these individuals while they are incarcerated.
This suggestion mirrors the law for Social Security.
Providing a new revenue stream for GERS, the SCGR is recommending that an excise tax be placed on tobacco products sold in the Virgin Islands and 50 percent of this new revenue be dedicated specifically to go to GERS.
This suggestion creates a funding stream with tobacco products taxes that will go to the “unfunded liability.”
According to the SCGR’s President Mary Moorhead, the St. Croix retirees see their role as advocates in support of the system financial soundness. Each member wants to see the system remain solvent for current retirees as well as for the future retirees who are presently working and contributing to GERS.
SCGR meets monthly to discuss ideas the Legislature could implement that would help develop new funding streams or, as demonstrated above, ways that GERS could conserve the precious resources it presently has so that it can grow investment revenues. The meetings are held every third Tuesday of the month at 1:00 p.m. in the old GERS building in Christiansted, St. Croix. SCGR’s contact person is the group’s Secretary, Mr. Abdul Ali (340-332-1835).
Retirees expecting to benefit from the Governor signing this legislation into law are urged to contact the Governor's Office to express how important receipt of the money will be to you and how it will will go far toward helping you endure the current economic situation.
For more information on GERS and other key issues of importance to VI residents, follow AARP on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/aarpvi or there are several options on Twitter depending on which island you would like to follow at: https://www.Twitter.com/AARPVI , https://www.Twitter.com/AARPVI_STX , https://www.Twitter.com/AARPVI_STT , https://www.Twitter.com/AARPVI_STJ and if you speak Spanish, follow AARP on Twitter at: https://www.Twitter.com/AARPVIEsp