Thank you for your quick response to our annual membership. While we are not able to offer programs currently, we hope you find this Newsletter informative and that you will want to continue to receive it, and will support SFCRTA.
Our membership goes from – January to December. If you have not yet joined, click here for our membership renewal information for 2021. Remember: Numbers matter and we still face many important issues regarding our pension and health insurance.
Please do not staple your check to any papers. Even when removed, it makes depositing the check difficult.
Anyone who is the widowed spouse of a retired teacher is eligible to join SFCRTA. We may not have their address and information because the TRB only provides us with the contact information for retired teachers. Please convey this invitation to anyone you know who may be interested in joining and receiving the Newsletter. Membership application information can be found on our website here.
In ordinary times, at our fall/winter event, members have generously brought unwrapped new toys to be given to families in need. Our SFCRTA President Frank Cooper remembered this when the holiday season arrived and the Board of Directors approved the following donations from SFCRTA in early December.
- $500 to Toys for Tots
- $500 to The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County
Pension- Your monthly pension amount can be impacted by two different factors, the cost-of-living increases added to your pension and the cost of health insurance you receive from the TRB that is deducted from your pension amount.
The Social Security COLA for 2021 is 1.3%, but the COLA determination for Connecticut’s retired teachers is more complicated. Depending on when a person joined the system and the retirement date, COLAs take effect in January or July. Currently, there are three tiers with regard to COLA. The earliest retirees, prior to Sept. 1, 1992, receive COLA amounts every year between 3-5%, depending on the Social Security COLA. The next two groups have a more complicated formula that depends on the Social Security COLA and the performance of the TRB retirement fund. Previously, the fund had to perform at 8%. The expected return was changed to 6.9%, but it was not updated in the wording of the COLA determination. This means that in a year when the fund return does not exceed 8%, post-1992 retirees do not receive the full COLA. Any lost amount is cumulative, so keeping up with the cost of living is important, especially since retiree spending is different from the Consumer Price Index for Urban wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), on which the Social Security COLA is based.
SFCTRA follows this issue. State Treasurer Shawn Wooden is expected to introduce a bill to standardize the language and correct the current mismatch. If you have an opportunity to speak with your Connecticut Legislator, please support this change on our behalf.
Taxes- Income Tax Exemption for Teacher Pensions “Per the 2019 Connecticut Resident Income Tax Return Instructions, for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2019 in determining a taxpayer’s Connecticut AGI, a taxpayer is allowed a subtraction modification of 25% of the income received from the State Teachers’ Retirement System. This modification applies to the extent such income is properly included in the taxpayer’s federal AGI for the taxable year.” That deduction is taken on CT-1040, line 45. Since we are talking about taxes, you know there will be complications. A separate type of deduction on retirement income is now available, BUT there are income limitations on taking that deduction for pension and annuity income. You may not claim both types of deductions on the same income.
Information about the COLA and about the tax exemptions can be found at ct.gov/trb > Retired Teachers.
Social Security- SFCRTA Members are encouraged to remain informed about attempts to restore Social Security fairness. President Biden had indicated support for these measures, but it will be difficult with the current economic challenges. You may have extra time as you wait for the vaccine, so please make an effort to become fully informed about the WEP and GPO methods used to deny earned benefits to Connecticut retired teachers and many public employees across the country. While not a lesson plan, start here- http://www.ssfairness.org– to read about what WEP and GPO mean and who is impacted by them. Did you earn Social Security or are you married to someone who receives Social Security? If so, you are most likely impacted. Next, on that same page, read Action Alert #118 for information you can use to inform others. Shall we have an open book quiz in the next Newsletter?
Special call to action for SFCRTA Members who live out of state– Please engage with your U.S. Representatives and Senators on this topic. Even if public employees in your current state are not harmed by these provisions, many retirees in your state are and could be bringing additional dollars to which they are fairly entitled to your new state. The more support for the Social Security Fairness Act, the better.
Anthem issued new insurance cards to both Advantage and Supplemental plan members. This means after Jan.1, 2021, you must update your insurance information with every medical provider you see.
We are aware that many people have received surprise extra co-pay bills. This happens when the providers code separate procedures instead of billing for a visit that includes the services. The initial understanding was that a single visit would incur a single co-pay, but we are trying to get clarification from the TRB and Anthem with a definitive statement about copay amounts.
This newsletter cannot be a timely source of availability, but we call your attention to the process that requires two steps. First you must register for the vaccine and then you must make an appointment. Hopefully, by the time this newsletter is received, you will have accomplished those tasks.
Connecticut was the first state to complete its first round of vaccine doses to all nursing home residents and staff that were willing to take the vaccine.
SCHOLARSHIPS AND GRANTS TO SUPPORT COLLEGE STUDENTS
This year, The Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut will award a Glenn Moon Scholarship of $2000 per year for four years, and a one-year $1500 scholarship, to students pursuing a career in education. High school guidance counselors currently have received information about this scholarship. The application for this scholarship is posted on the ARTC website (www.artct.org) and is due by March 31.
Our SFCRTA group sponsors 5 one-year Book Awards of $1000 each for graduating high school seniors from the eight towns in our region (see the letterhead) who are promising students who intend to go into education as a career. Book awards are grants used to cover college expenses and do not impact financial aid determinations. Applications are available on the SFCRTA website (https://sfcrta.com/scholarship-information/). Please consider advocating for our profession to capable students you know, and if they fall within our geographical area, encourage them to apply. More information will be distributed to high school guidance counselors in February.
It is not a secret, but it is a point of pride that President Biden has nominated Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. As a candidate, Biden had said he planned to appoint a person who had worked in a classroom. Dr. Cardona fulfills that ambition. Growing up in public housing, he was a student in Meriden CT Public Schools. Holding five degrees or certificates from Connecticut universities, he returned to Meriden, as a 4th grade classroom teacher, became a principal, and was honored as Principal of the Year before becoming Assistant Superintendent for the Meriden Schools. Gov. Ned Lamont appointed Dr. Cardona State Commissioner of Education in 2019. While in this position, he oversaw efforts that assured every public-school student in CT would have access to remote learning opportunities. Tablets were donated, hotspots were arranged, and Connecticut became the first state in the nation to provide access to online learning for all public-school students. Like many Cabinet appointees, Dr. Cardona will have plenty of work to put his department on a more successful track, but his Connecticut experience suggests that he is up to the task.
TRB CONTACT INFORMATION
The TRB has moved to 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106-1673
Due to the situation with COVID-19, TRB staff will be telecommuting with limited access to voicemail. Please dial 800-504-1102 option 1 for retirement benefits or option 2 for fiscal. Please email if possible. The fax numbers remain unchanged.
A full contact list with the email addresses you will need can be found on the TRB website if you scroll down the page to the bottom and look on the right side of the page for Contact Us.
LEARNING IN RETIREMENT
One source is literally, Learning in Retirement in Stamford, CT. Their current term is offered via Zoom, so it is possible to participate from a distance. Check out their offerings at lirstamford.org.