Many state pensions were already on life support and now they face a $1 trillion shortfall due to the markets.t.co/kRUhUzFQBT
— Brad Huston (@BradHuston) April 5, 2020
For years, the country’s public pension plans have faced a yawning gap between what they owe and what they can pay.
From the State of California’s public employees’ retirement plan, with more than 1.6 million participants, to tiny funds for employees of local mosquito-control programs in Illinois, public pensions are the time bomb of government finance.
Now the coronavirus pandemic has it ticking faster.
Already chronically underfunded, pension programs have taken huge hits to their investment portfolios over the past month as the markets collapsed. The outbreak has also triggered widespread job losses and business closures that threaten to wipe out state and local tax revenues.
That one-two punch has staggered these funds, most of which are required by law to keep sending checks every month to about 11 million Americans.
Last week, Moody’s investors service estimated that state and local pension funds had lost $1 trillion in the market sell-off that began in February. The exact damage is hard to determine, though, because pension funds do not issue quarterly reports.
“You’re not going to see real data on the market crash until Christmas,” said Girard Miller, a former chief investment officer of the Orange County, Calif., pension fund and a former member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.
And that data will not count the knock-on effects of the economic downturn, which would short-circuit pension funds’ ability to hit up taxpayers for bigger contributions. About 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the most recent week reported — a record by a huge margin — and further layoffs are inevitable. Thousands of taxpaying businesses are also losing revenue because of stalled operations, and some might be forced to close permanently.
The stimulus can’t come quickly enough for millions of Americans. Those who are the most financially vulnerable are the first to have lost their jobs which you see via this chart from DB’s Torsten Slok. pic.twitter.com/LXpg4DzXdv
— Danielle DiMartino Booth (@DiMartinoBooth) April 5, 2020
Two weeks until the virus peaks.
Another four weeks of bending the curve downward & stabilizing new cases.
But with no herd immunity, how many more months before people are willing to confidently come out of their homes?
A vaccine & long-term psychological damage matters.
— Brad Huston (@BradHuston) April 4, 2020
Coronavirus Rent Strike in the Bay Area: Tenants ‘Giving the Governor Notice’ t.co/e9ftJMvvsU
— M/I_Investments (@MI_Investments) April 5, 2020