March 2021 Treasurer’s Note by Treasurer Michael Frerichs
It was about one year ago that I spoke with a group of local leaders about economic development.
I remember the North Central Illinois event because it was the last large, in-person gathering before COVID 19 restrictions gripped our state.
While the challenges of the past year have been nothing short of monumental, I am reminded of the enduring spirit of the Illinois worker, business owner, and maybe the most difficult occupation of all, parent.
This enduring spirit pushed many of our friends to change how they operate each day. The courage, commitment, and raw nerve they showed in order to succeed is inspiring.
We in the treasurer’s office also have changed to meet our responsibilities of investing on behalf of units of government, parents saving for college, and workers saving for retirement.
We mastered the intricacies of Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and several other virtual platforms. We realized the communication challenges that wearing a mask presents and wondered aloud if a handshake agreement will ever return. Maybe most significantly, we understood the importance of personal contact and the need to check-in with others to make sure they are ok.
We did so because, like many of you, it was necessary to continue — and excel — in our work, which is to invest in you.
In the past year, we again set records for our college savings programs, exceeded expectations in our Secure Choice retirement savings program, and reached the $1 Billion milestone in returning unclaimed property.
However, I am equally proud of the success of our programs that did not garner front-page headlines, especially programs designed to help those who want to help themselves.
For example, our Charitable Trust program benefits small non-profits in a variety of ways, including housing assistance. Helping people pay rent during the pandemic is a critical need, especially to those battling unemployment.
Stimulus packages in 2020 and 2021 included financial relief to struggling families, and we showed individuals with a disability how to leverage this assistance by opening an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. These accounts help meet daily spending needs while not jeopardizing federal benefits.
Although I am grateful that technology has allowed us to stay connected, I do long for the return of large public gatherings where we can share our energy, solutions, and handshakes as we work to improve our communities. Until then, I invite you to see how our programs might be of assistance to you.