Retirement Monitor - May 2020

<p>In this issue:</p> <p>All in a Day&#39;s Work; Where it all begins - The Imaging Team; Medicare Advantage Plans Transition to Humana; Retirement Planning Conferences; You Asked - We Answered! (NEW); Continued Engagement with our Members; Member Services Update; Help Your Employees Maintain Access to ORBIT; Cooperative Extension Employees and Employer Contributions; Did You Know?</p>

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Table of Contents

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Special Pay related to Covid-19 for Essential Workers 

Many agencies are paying essential workers at a different rate during the current COVID-19 stay-at-home order.  If pay is paid wages, including special pay, even if paid at time and a half, it should be reported as REGULAR PAY.

Covid-19 Return to Work Provisions for Employers

Effective Monday, May 4, 2020, a series of COVID related bills were signed into law, including a provision for temporary relief from the return to work restrictions.

This time-limited provision directly impacts retirees returning to work in a position needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some important requirements that apply should you have a need to re-hire an individual under the Section 4.23 of the COVID-19 state legislation. (The specific law that impacts the earnings is Session Law 2020-3.)

Temporary relief from the return-to-work restrictions apply if the position to which the member is returning to is needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is certified by the employer.

Who is eligible for temporary relief of return-to-work restrictions related to the separation from service requirements?

  • Individuals who retired on or after October 1, 2019 and before April 1, 2020 from the Teachers’ and State Employees Retirement System (TSERS) or Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS) are eligible for the temporary relief from the return-to-work separation from service restrictions, provided the position is needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If the individual meets the above criteria and is a TSERS member, the required separation from service from a TSERS employer will be reduced to one-month, instead of the mandatory six-month separation requirement.
  • Individuals who are members of LGERS or TSERS and retired prior to October 1, 2019, would have already met the required separation from service and would be eligible for the temporary relief from the return-to-work restrictions, provided the position is needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is an individual that retired on April 1, 2020 eligible for temporary relief of return-to-work restrictions related to the separation from service requirements?

  • No, this provision does not apply to a person that retired on April 1, 2020. Therefore, an individual who retires from a TSERS employer on April 1, 2020 must meet the six-month separation from service requirement before returning to work.  An individual who retires from an LGERS employer on April 1, 2020 must meet the required one-month separation from service.

 Who is eligible for temporary relief from the return-to-work earnings restrictions?

  • Individuals who retired prior to April 1, 2020, whose earnings are related to a position needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are eligible.

When does the temporary relief from return-to-work restrictions end?

  • The COVID-19 temporary relief provisions continue through August 1, 2020.

How are earnings treated?

  • For individuals who retired prior to April 1, 2020, earnings received between March 10, 2020 and the expiration of this provision will not be treated as earnings towards the annual earnable allowance for an individual hired with a TSERS or LGERS employer, provided the individual meets the eligibility requirements and the earnings are related to a position that is needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What happens after August 1, 2020?

  • Earnings after August 1, 2020 will count towards the earnable allowance.

I will be hiring a retiree under this provision, what do I need to do?

  • It is the responsibility of the employer to certify that the individual returning to work meets the eligibility criteria and the position they are filling is needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Confirm the individual retired in the eligible timeline – on or after October 1, 2019 and before April 1, 2020.

If an individual is not rehired under the provision, but is retired and returning-to-work, it is the responsibility of the employer to notify the Retirement Systems Division in writing within 10 business days of rehire that the individual’s reemployment is not related to COVID-19 pandemic.

As a final step in your rehire process, you are required to send a separate email to for each individual returning to work under the COVID-19 provision and include the following: 

  • I certify the individual below meets the eligibility criteria and the position they are filling is needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Name
  • Member ID
  • Date of Rehire

Employer Access to Monthly ORBIT Error Reports Available Online

  1. In Employer ORBIT Self-Service, under the REPORTING options select “Report Viewer.”
  2. The Report Type is “Employer Reporting,” and the Report Name is “Detail Records in Error by Agency and Report Month – Self Service.”
  3. Select the “Report Month” and “Report Year.”
  4. The “Exception Type” and “Source of Entry” are auto-populated and cannot be changed.
  5. Select the Export Type which is either “Adobe PDF” or “Excel.”

You can now check your monthly ORBIT errors as soon as your report has posted. You may save this report and add your responses on how to correct the Error Message, and then email the report to your ORBIT Employer Reporting Team representative. Your representative will correct these records in error status according to your written instructions.


Graphic with the heading Where it all begins: The Imaging Team


The Imaging Team plays a very important role in the Retirement Systems Division (RSD). They are responsible for intake of correspondence and documents, verifications and digital conversion of our members’ critical information from employers and individuals. This six-person team lays the foundation for success in the other sections of RSD. Collectively, this team has decades of government, university and corporate experience. Imaging works together with the utmost integrity, reliability, flexibility and pride to make sure correct information goes to the right place at the right time. Information, after all, is one of RSD’s primary assets.

The Imaging Team also works closely with the mail room to ensure correspondence and payments are timely and delivered to the right place, at the right time. The Imaging Team and mailroom staff have modified their work schedules but continue to go into the office to perform their crucial work which allows RSD to continue to provide a high level of customer service to our members.

We thank the Imaging Team and mailroom staff for continuing their essential duties during this time.

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Medicare Advantage Plans Transition to Humana

Planning is under way for the State Health Plan’s recently announced transition to Humana for the Medicare Advantage plans. This January 1, 2021, change to Humana affects all State Health Plan members who are on Medicare Advantage plans.
Please note: This is not effective until January 1, 2021. Medicare Advantage members will continue their current benefits with UnitedHealthcare for the remainder of this year. Members will receive more information in the mail on this transition prior to 2021 Open Enrollment, October 15-31, 2020. In the meantime, don’t miss any information! Sign up to receive the Plan’s free monthly e-newsletter, Member Focus, by clicking here.



Graphic with images of people on either side of a podium and the title Retirement Planning Conferences


Employer sponsored Total Retirement Planning Conferences are a proven success story.

When the NC Retirement System partners with an association or employer – employees react. The Department of State Treasurer partnered with NCASBO and increased online retirement planning participation by 500%. In other meetings with Local Governmental employers we met virtually with every employee in the organization. Retirement Planning is not just for individuals looking to retire soon but for well-informed individuals planning for retirement at some point in the future.

Employees with long term goals related to their career are the most engaged, dedicated, and yes, productive.

Sponsor an online Total Retirement Planning Seminar for your employees today.

Contact the NC Retirement Systems at and request more information about engaging your employees in their career.

Graphic with the words NEW You asked - We answered!


EXCLUSIVE email assistance is now available for employers member benefits and issues,

Employers now have a way to contact member services for consultative work in interpreting and explaining benefit program information administered by the Retirement Systems Division.

For all reporting related issues, please continue to use the mailbox for Employer Reporting –


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In 2019 we began building a more robust digital library to offer additional options for engagement to our members. 

This laid a solid foundation for us to adjust in a timely manner during the COVID-19 crisis. Our education counselors are continuing to meet with members one-on-one in a virtual setting or by phone.  We have continued live streaming our webinar series for employees and employers and offer a variety of on-demand webinars. A series of informational videos and Q&As provide additional support for members during this time.

Webinar attendance is available to the first 500 registrants.

For a current schedule of live events for employers and members, please click here.

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Being available for our members and responding to requests in a timely manner continues to be our priority. We made a transition from phone support to email support mid-March. While it has been an adjustment for staff and our members, together we have been able to make some positive progress and made some adjustments along the way.

As of May 22, we have reopened the Call Center with limited staff. The Call Center counselors are available Monday-Friday from 8am – 4pm, with a close for lunch from 11.30am – 12.30pm.


We are still recommending that members login to their secure ORBIT account and click on the Reach A Counselor tab. This will verify the member and we can respond quicker. 


Graphic with the ORBIT logo and the words "The best way for retirees and current employees to submit a request is through their secure ORBIT account."


  • Login to ORBIT
  • Select the Reach A Counselor tab
  • Choose a topic
  • Type in your note, comment or request
  • Press send
  • We are answering requests in the order they are received


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Email Address Updates for ORBIT Access

If your employees are using your work email address, we suggest they change it to a personal email address in ORBIT as soon as possible. This way, your employees will maintain access to ORBIT for security questions if they are not onsite, do not have access to their work email address or if/when they leave employment or retire.


Access ORBIT = Use PERSONAL Email Address


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Cooperative Extension Employees and Employer Contributions

The Department of State Treasurer has interpreted the plan documents for the NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plans to cover cooperative extension employees (CEEs) as university – and not county – employees for purposes of the NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plans. Therefore, counties are not permitted to provide employer contributions to CEEs in the NC 401(k) and NC 457 plans, regardless of whether the contribution is based on a CEE’s total compensation or the portion of compensation paid by the county. Please note that this interpretation applies only a prospective basis and does not require the removal of prior contributions.


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Change in Process:

Mistake of Fact form for NC Supplemental Retirement Plans (NC 401(k), NC 457 and NC 403(b)

The Mistake of Fact form is used when an employer makes an error in contributions to the North Carolina Supplemental Retirement Plans. If you are a local government employer who participates in an employer match or employer contribution and you make an excess contribution, the overage will be placed in your forfeiture account and applied to the next payroll. If you need more information, please Contact your designated Retirement Education Counselor or your Relationship Manager with the Supplemental Retirements Plans (NC 401(k), NC 457 and/or NC 403(b) Program.

Need help with Employer Reporting errors in ORBIT? click here

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