COVID-19 Update & FAQs

04/08/2020

NYSTRS has implemented a variety of measures related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Large meetings and events, including our PREP seminars, are canceled until further notice. Benefit consultations are being conducted by telephone. A large percentage of staff are telecommuting. Our building is closed to the public but our phone lines remain open at (800) 348-7298 to answer your questions and we are still receiving mail.

We thank you for understanding that the health, safety and welfare of our members and staff are our utmost concern. We will continue to monitor the evolving situation as well as the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the New York State Health Department, and we will continue to adjust our plans as needed.

To ensure members have the information needed to make informed decisions, we have put in place alternative communication methods. Please read on for more information. We also urge you to use the self-service tools and secure messaging function available through your online MyNYSTRS account.

1. Will there be delays in processing forms, requests or benefit payments?

A large percentage of NYSTRS staff are telecommuting until further notice to facilitate social distancing. We are prioritizing transactions such as pension payments, direct deposit changes, disability retirements, death benefits and loans. (Note: We encourage members to apply for a loan via MyNYSTRS and request direct deposit payment as there will be a delay in processing paper loan checks.) All other transactions will be processed as expeditiously as possible. Throughout this challenging time, NYSTRS staff will work diligently to maintain the highest level of customer service.

2. What's the most important step I can take at this point? 

If you don’t have a MyNYSTRS account, create one now. This will allow you to file forms electronically, print 1099 tax forms, run benefit projections, correspond with us securely and utilize the many self-service tools available. With an account, you can file a service retirement application without needing to get a notarization. It will also allow NYSTRS to receive your forms even if there is an interruption in the System's ability to receive mail.

To create an account, you will need to enter the last four digits of your Social Security number and your NYSTRS EmplID, so have those handy. The latter can be found on the Benefit Profile sent to you each fall or on personal correspondence you have received from NYSTRS.

3. If my school closes for an extended period due to COVID-19, will I receive service credit?

If a member remains on payroll during the COVID-19 school shutdown, the member should receive service credit, provided the reason is solely related to COVID-19 or other permissible forms of leave pay. The situation is fluid and is evolving, and the System reserves the right to revise its position as warranted.

As always, the System will review service credit for members who may be on payroll but are receiving termination pay or another form of leave that is not deemed permissible for the granting of service credit.

4. Can I defer my monthly NYSTRS loan payment?

Although we understand these are challenging times economically, as of this writing, there has been no guidance providing authority for the System to suspend or defer retirement system loans. If you remain on payroll with a NYSTRS participating employer, regular loan deductions will continue as usual. Members with a loan who are not currently employed in a NYSTRS-eligible position receive a monthly loan statement and make payments directly to NYSTRS.

5. Given concerns with COVID-19, what are the eligibility rules to apply for disability protection?

If you haven’t been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, you should not file a disability retirement application with us related to the pandemic. While we certainly understand and share the health concerns that members have, a member cannot apply for disability protection just on the possibility that they might end up getting sick. You must have been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition like COVID-19 or be facing a significant surgery in order to qualify.

In general, if you face a potentially life-threatening illness or surgery, pre-emptively filing a disability retirement application provides protection to a beneficiary if you were to die. In most cases, the lump-sum retirement payment a beneficiary would receive would be significantly more than an in-service death benefit. You should contact our Disability Unit at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6010 for additional information before making a decision to file. Our video "Filing for Disability Protection: What You Need to Know" is another helpful resource.

Another important step you can take when planning for the future is to have a power of attorney (POA) on file with NYSTRS. For more information see our Power of Attorney FAQs, which includes links to the Public Retirement System Special Power of Attorney form.

6. I need to submit a form that requires notarization, but am having difficulty obtaining a notary at this time. How should I proceed?

A New York State executive order permits the use of e-notarizations through May 7. Refer to How to Notarize in 6 Easy Steps for additional information. Notarization is not required for service retirement applications submitted through MyNYSTRS.

7. I am planning to retire soon and was counting on the information I received at a PREP seminar to guide me. What other options are available to me?

To ensure you have the information you need, we produced video versions of PREP modules on NYSTRS benefits and filing for retirement, and we posted them on the PREP page of this website.

A host of additional useful online resources is also available. For example, our Ready to Retire page has links to a variety of publications, videos and forms to help you prepare for retirement. If you have a MyNYSTRS account, you can run estimates of your projected benefit based on various scenarios.

If you have specific questions regarding your situation, send us a secure message from your online MyNYSTRS account. If you have general questions, email them to our Information & Communication Center at communit@nystrs.org. You can also call us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6250.

8. Will a telephone consultation offer me all the same information I would have received at an in-person or video consultation?  

Yes. The estimates you would have received during an in-person or video consultation will instead be uploaded to your MyNYSTRS account. A NYSTRS representative will review that important information with you over the phone and answer all your questions. Alternatively, documents can be mailed to you after the consultation.

If you don’t have a MyNYSTRS account, we strongly urge you to register for one prior to your telephone consultation. You will need to enter the last four digits of your Social Security number and your NYSTRS EmplID so have those handy. The latter can be found on the Benefit Profile sent to you each fall or on personal correspondence you have received from NYSTRS. 

9. The coronavirus has impacted the stock market. What does that mean for my retirement benefit?

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted global markets. However, your NYSTRS benefit is safe. NYSTRS is well funded, meaning we have funds on hand to pay promised benefits. The System invests in a well-diversified portfolio and follows a long-term investment strategy. The System’s Retirement Board, staff and external consultants continually monitor our asset allocations and adjust as necessary.

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