ORP Amended to Accommodate CARES Act Benefits
The Board of Higher Education amended the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) to allow for in-service withdrawals* and loans from the Plan. Details about these changes are below.
These new features for the ORP are:
*In-service withdrawals are distributions from the Plan to participants who have not terminated employment with the Commonwealth AND are at least age 59 ½. This includes all actively contributing participants and those who have been either furloughed or laid-off with or without pay.
Corona-Related Distributions (CRDs) are payments from the Plan to participants who are affected by the Corona Virus medically and/or financially. Click here for eligibility requirements.
You must self-certify to your Provider that you meet these conditions.
Active Participants - Eligibility
If you are currently employed by the Commonwealth, you must be at least age 59 ½** to take a distribution from the ORP.
This includes participants who have been furloughed without pay and not currently contributing to the Plan.
Terminated Participants – Eligibility
If you have terminated employment with the Commonwealth, then you are eligible for Corona-Related Distribution from the ORP. There are no other limitations or requirements applicable to you in order to take money from the Plan.
CARES Act Distribution Features & Application
The best source of detailed information about CARES Act distributions is your Plan Provider. Click here for contact information for your Provider.
You will apply for any CARES Act distributions from the ORP directly with your Provider.
**The Internal Revenue Code restricts distributions from Plans like the ORP to active participants who are at least 59 ½ years old. Active participants are those who have not terminated employment with the Commonwealth. Active participants include those who have been furloughed without pay and (therefore) not currently contributing to the Plan.
Eligibility – All Participants
All participants, those who have terminated employment with the Commonwealth and those who have not, are eligible to utilize the CARES Act loan provisions.
Participants seeking to use the CARES Act loans must self-certify, to their Provider, that they meet the Act’s requirements of being medically and/or financially affected by the Corona Virus. Click here for the Act’s requirements to be eligible for the CARES Act loans.
CARES Act Loan Features & Application
The best source of detailed information about CARES Act loans is your Plan Provider. Click here for contact information for your Provider.
You will apply for any CARES Act loans from the ORP directly with your Provider.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”)
Commissioner Santiago, empowered by the Board of Higher Education’s inter-meeting authority, amended the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) to make the CARES Act (the “Act”) features available to ORP participants. These include:
The addition of these features will provide access to ORP funds during the current Covid-19 emergency.
The amendments are effective now.
However, they are aligned with the CARES Act, and its deadlines for these features. In its current form, the Act’s loan provisions will end on September 23, 2020. The in-service withdrawals will end on December 31, 2020.
If the Act’s provisions are extended, then the ORP features will similarly be extended; reflecting changes to the Act.
Who is eligible?
Loans under the ORP are available to all participants, without regard to their employment status (active/leave/terminated).
CARES Act Eligibility: Participants must meet the CARES Act requirements for the special loan provisions. You must certify your eligibility to your ORP Provider.
Contact your Provider to learn about the details of the CARES Act loan provisions and requirements. Some of the basic features are:
CAUTIONARY NOTE: The interest accrual on loans begins immediately, and is NOT delayed.
Each Provider’s record keeping system has been set to a maximum of five (5) loans outstanding.
Who is eligible?
In-service Withdrawals, which will be treated as “Coronavirus-Related Distributions” (CRDs) under the CARES Act, are available to participants who are actively employed by the Commonwealth (including those on a Leave) and are age 59 ½ or older. This age requirement is established by the Internal Revenue Service for in-service withdrawals for plans like the ORP.
CARES Act Eligibility: Participants must meet the CARES Act requirements for the special CRDs. You must certify your eligibility to your ORP Provider.
Contact your Provider to learn about CRD details. Some of the basic features are:
If you are actively employed or on leave and are younger than age 59 ½
If you are younger than age 59 ½, actively employed by the Commonwealth and you meet the Act’s eligibility requirements, you are eligible for the CARES Act loans, not the in-service withdrawals.
If you have terminated employment with the Commonwealth
If you meet the Act’s eligibility requirements, then you may use both the CARES Act loans and/or Coronavirus-Related Distributions (CRDs).
The CRDs are available to you because as a participant who has terminated employment with the Commonwealth, you are already eligible to take money from the Plan. In this case, for those eligible, the distributions with be treated as CRDs.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”)
The CARES Act, which was passed by the Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides expanded access to retirement plan assets during 2020 for those who suffer either medically and/or financially under the COVID pandemic. The access is made through liberal loan provisions and Corona-Related Distributions (CRDs).
The Commissioner of Higher Education, using inter-meeting authority granted by the Board of Higher Education, is preparing to amend the ORP in order to allow the greatest possible access to ORP assets under the CARES Act.
The effective date of the amendments will be posted here as soon as possible.
In anticipation of these ORP amendments, the Department’s Retirement Plans Group has been working with Fidelity, TIAA and AIG Retirement (fka VALIC)** to position the Providers to enable the CARES Act’s provisions on their record keeping systems for the ORP, as soon as possible.
Please monitor this ORP “News” page for updates on the progress of amending the Plan and then implementing these changes at the three Providers.
**While AIG Retirement holds only ORP assets invested in its Fixed Account Plus, and Fixed Interest Option, neither of which can (generally) be transferred to another investment medium in a single sum, these assets are available to pay benefits. So, when the ORP is amended to reflect the CARES Act’s provisions, AIG Retirement will be poised to support both the CRDs and loans under the ORP.
With the passage of the federal CARES Act (the Act) on March 27, the Department of Higher Education is currently working to determine how the Act affects the Optional Retirement Program, and what processes must be established to ensure the compliant administration of the Coronavirus-Related Distributions enabled by the Act.
At this time, we ask for your patience while we consider these important changes to the Plan and determine how best to address them.
Please monitor this website for updates on our progress.
The Dept. of Higher Education (DHE), as the Plan’s Administrator, will not extend VALIC’s contract as a Provider under the Optional Retirement Program (ORP). While the termination is effective immediately, VALIC’s role under the ORP will be phased-out over the course of 2019.
The Plan will not accept any new ORP enrollments for VALIC.
However, all other aspects of VALIC’s role in the ORP will remain unchanged as we make our way through this process.
Participants may continue current contributions to their ORP account with VALIC.
The DHE’s decision to release VALIC from the ORP is the first major step in the Commonwealth’s efforts to gradually revise the ORP’s structure away from the “multi-Provider” approach of the 1980s and 1990s, to an efficient contemporary approach.
The DHE is working with VALIC on an exit plan that will be implemented over the course of this year.
Formal notice of this change will be mailed directly to all VALIC participants under the ORP in the near future.
Details of the exit plan and its implementation will be reported via direct correspondence with participants, and on this web site, as a common resource for everyone.
SPECIAL 403(b) NOTE: VALIC remains a vibrant partner in the Commonwealth’s 403(b) Supplemental Retirement Plan. The DHE’s action under the ORP has no effect on participants’ elections for VALIC under the 403(b) plan.
Retirees Who Purchase GIC Retiree Insurances
The Department of Higher Education will contact you directly to work-through this transition; ensuring there is no interruption in your insurance coverages. The DHE has already begun working with the GIC on this matter.
As noted above, details of these changes are forthcoming.