Lessons and Gratitude in 2020

Illinois State Treasurer's Office
3 min readDec 17, 2020

December 2020 Treasurer’s Note by Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Merriam-Webster’s 2020 Word of the Year is “pandemic.” Collins Dictionary chose “lockdown.” Oxford English Dictionary could not agree on just one word.

These choices are not surprising. Many of us have strong opinions on COVID 19, novel coronavirus, or many other terms for this global contagion that forever will color 2020.

For me, I choose to focus on the inspiring: The selflessness of our doctors and nurses; the bravery of our first responders; the genuine effort of our hard-working parents and caregivers trying their level-best to make the right decisions for their family and children.

In doing so, I am reminded that actions speak louder than words. Among our actions this year to help push past the uncertainty of this healthcare and economic crisis:

  • In February, we created a working group to identify improvements to technology and security so our primary responsibility — the safe and secure investment of our $35 billion portfolio — would not be jeopardized.
  • We worked with Secretary of State Jesse White to suspend electronic transaction fees associated with certain payments, such as a driver’s license and license plate. This saved Illinois motorists more than $200,000.
  • We designated $500 million to create a loan program to assist Illinois small businesses to stay open during the pandemic. Money was available in as little as three days. This was critical considering federal assistance was cumbersome and reportedly concentrated on national corporations.
  • We filed Emergency Rules to make it easier to claim unclaimed property and increased the FastTrack threshold from $500 to $2,000. When public events were cancelled, we moved our staff inside answering telephones to assist claimants.
  • We created a $35 million investment fund with former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson’s Cleveland Avenue to increase entrepreneurial investment because assisting startups and small businesses in underserved areas creates a powerful economic engine that generates jobs and wealth.
  • We testified before a Securities and Exchange Commission committee that rights of shareholders need to be reinstated to allow more women and people of color in decision-making roles because research shows diversity increases a company’s profit margin and stock value.
  • We modified a grant program for small non-profit organizations to emphasize food security and housing assistance. This allowed us to support 30 organizations with a total of $375,000.
  • We joined with the treasurers of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Colorado to demand ventilator manufacturers release service and repair manuals. Keeping this vital information secret jeopardizes the care and safety of the public during this crisis.

As 2020 comes to a close, I will take stock in the lessons I learned from the unique challenges this year. I also will find inspiration, wisdom, and humility in the selfless acts of others, and I hope to help my family see these as well. Finally, I wish you and your loved ones the best during this holiday season.

Subscribe and Read the Treasurer’s Office’s eNewsletter: http://bit.ly/IllinoisTreasurer

View past issues of the newsletter here.