Retirees expecting a hefty annual “bonus” payment from the V.I. government’s pension system may be disappointed this year, as payments are expected to be more than $100 less than last year.
According to Government Employees’ Retirement System Administrator Austin Nibbs, the bonus payments, which are funded by contributions from the V.I. Lottery, will be issued to 7,436 eligible retirees on Tuesday.
This year, GERS is expecting to disburse $607,818 in bonus payments, with eligible retirees — those who are at least 60 years old, and who have been on the GERS payroll for at least a year — each receiving $81.74 after taxes.
The figure is a far cry from last year, in which $1.3 million was disbursed with each retiree getting $184.30.
V.I. Lottery Executive Director Raymond Williams blames COVID-19.
“The transfer that we make to GERS and several other programs is based on our VLT revenues from Southland Gaming, but because of COVID, we had the games shut down for a number of months,” Williams said. “We gave the standard percentage but it was based on what net revenues were generated. The result was that the revenue amount was less than what it might have been had we not shuttered because of COVID.”
The bonus payments have been an annual expectation since 2009, when Gov. John de Jongh Jr. signed Act 7070, a law that requires GERS to annually transfer up to $2.3 million from V.I. Lottery contributions to qualifying retirees, mostly as a way to assist them with the rising cost of living expenses.
The amount has averaged far below the $2.3 million ceiling for years: $1.08 million in 2016; $1.04 million in 2017; and $1.2 million in 2018.
Payments are made through the customary method in which retirees currently receive their annuity payments from GERS.