Higgins: retirees should still expect benefits amid COVID-19

On Thursday morning, Mississippi Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Executive Director Ray Higgins joined The Gallo Show to talk about the current state of his office amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are doing well for the circumstances certainly,” Higgins said. “PERS is stable and retirees can count on their benefits. We just have to all work together to make sure and keep it that way.”

PERS annually provides $2.8 billion to 330,000 total members, which is not only beneficial to retirees but also to the state’s economy.

“I know that the retirement systems are important in every state, but it seems to be particularly important in Mississippi,” Higgins said. “92 percent of that 2.8 billion stays in the state of Mississippi and ripples throughout the economy.”

According to Higgins, the office’s funded ratio, which is the comparison between an annuity’s assets and its liabilities, currently stands at 61 percent.

“Compared to other states, that’s probably in the middle, maybe a little bit below that,” Higgins said.

While Higgins wants that number to be higher, he noted it has stayed consistent with numbers from prior years, and retirees should expect benefits to keep coming, pandemic or no pandemic.

“We would love for that to be higher, but we’ve hovered around 60 or 61 percent for the last several years,” Higgins said. “Together, we will work through it [COVID-19], stay the course, and continue to work together to keep the benefits coming.”